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Next phase in clean-up of digital advertising

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London, UK: Today Unilever announces the launch of Unilever Trusted Publishers, a network of global, regional and local online publishers and platforms which will work closely with the company to transform the way it advertises online. This will help Unilever gain more control and visibility over where its adverts are placed to ensure they are viewed by people not bots, ultimately creating a more positive experience for consumers online.

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The strict vetting criteria for selection to the Trusted Publishers will go beyond Unilever’s existing ‘3Vs’ – Viewability, Verification and Value standards – to satisfy additional, evolving and more stringent checks around ad fraud, online brand safety, ad experience, traffic quality, ad formatting and data access. Eventually most of Unilever’s online advertising spend will be made through this protocol, working closely with media agency partners.

It is estimated that click fraud generates more than $20m per month in profit for those involved1, with further research suggesting that bots can account for up to 90% of ad campaign clicks2. Lack of transparency is an issue for both brands and consumers, as it undermines trust and distorts impact. The network of Trusted Publishers aims to address this.

Keith Weed, Chief Marketing Officer at Unilever, will be speaking today at WFA Global Marketer Week in Lisbon on the most important lessons he learnt as a marketer. One of these lessons is that companies must be purpose-led, helping to solve global challenges rather than just selling products. Another lesson focuses on the importance of rebuilding trust across the industry. It is in this line of thought that Unilever is tackling the global problem of click fraud.

Keith Weed, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Unilever, said:

“Now is the perfect time for Unilever to build on the efforts and progress we’ve made so far in the last twelve months in cleaning up the digital ecosystem. We’ve been clear for years about what we want to see online – more consumer trust through greater publisher transparency, more effective use of time and money, and better online experiences for everyone. Online advertising credibility is still a global, industry-wide problem and as the world’s second largest advertiser, we have a responsibility to use our scale and influence to address this issue.

“The Unilever Trusted Publishers will add more rigour to how Unilever advertises online. We want to know that real people, not robots, are enjoying our ads – bots don’t eat a lot of Ben & Jerry’s. We will champion the good actors that help us in this while diminishing the roles of the bad.”

This announcement marks the next phase in Unilever’s Responsibility Framework. In February 2018 Unilever announced the company’s push to improve the digital ecosystem through its Responsibility Framework, ensuring greater accountability among key partner platforms, more responsible brand content, and better infrastructure via a One Measurement system.

At Cannes Lions in 2018 Unilever further expanded its approach to address transparency issues in influencer marketing. In January 2019, Unilever announced the development of a Cross Media Measurement model, partnering with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Kantar Media and Nielsen. This model offers better transparency for brands in terms of their investment, and better online experiences for consumers who may face reduced bombardment from the same ads on multiple platforms.

ENDS

Notes to editors

Announced in February 2018, Unilever’s Responsibility Framework covers three key areas:

  • Commitment One - Responsible Platforms: Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which promote anger, hate or create division in society. We will prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society. This includes engagement on Brand Safety, fake news, influencer transparency, and fraudulent activity on the platform.
  • Commitment Two - Responsible Content: Unilever is committed to creating responsible content, initially tackling gender stereotypes in advertising through #Unstereotype, and championing this across the industry through the #Unstereotype Alliance. This also includes a focus on how platforms are vetting and monetising content that goes live on platforms.
  • Commitment Three - Responsible Infrastructure: Unilever will only partner with organisations that are committed to creating a better digital infrastructure and improving the consumer experience. This includes engagement around One Measurement system, consumer data protection, and infrastructure for managing key platform issues with third party verification implementation.

In June 2018, Unilever announced an expanded approach to address the transparency issues in influencer marketing, calling for:

  • Transparency from Influencers (we will not work with influencers who buy followers)
  • Transparency from Brands (our brands will never buy followers)
  • Transparency from Platforms (we will prioritise partners who increase transparency and help eradicate bad practices)

In January 2019, Unilever announced the development of a Cross Media Measurement Model, in partnership with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Kantar Media and Nielsen.

1MIT Technology Review, ‘Inside the business model for botnets’

2 Dianomi, ‘Robot Traffic Report’

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