Unilever’s Digital Marketing Strategy: The Trusted Publisher Network

The internet has provided marketers and advertisers with halcyon days when it comes to promoting their brands - or those of their clients. However, the online space is not without its murkier corners.

As one of the world's biggest umbrella brands, Unilever has the power and influence to combat some of these negative parts of digital marketing. With a marketing budget which numbers in the billions, if not trillions, it can use its clout to dictate certain terms to those it chooses to do business with.

Recently, it was reported that Unilever was setting out new best practices for companies it was willing to advertise with. This included pulling advertising from any platforms which allow toxic content - including fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, and toxic content directed at children - to be published and proliferated.

But the consumer goods giant isn't stopping there. Unilever is going even further in its quest to clean up digital marketing.


Now, the company - which is responsible for household name food and beverage brands such as Marmite, Ben & Jerry's, and Hellman's - is tightening up the rules, even more, when it comes to which platforms it's willing to advertise on. And this time the target is so-called "bad actors".

"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 the issue," said Unilever's Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed. "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."

With click fraud creating around $20 million per month in profit for those involved, with further research suggesting bots can account for up to 90% of ad campaign clicks, the need to tackle this fresh threat to advertising credibility is huge. Unilever believes it can reduce, if not eliminate this issue by working with global, regional, and local online publishers and platforms to create a unified, trusted network.

Platforms hoping to be selected for inclusion in the Trusted Publishers Network will have to pass muster on Unilever's "3Vs". Standing for viewability, verification, and value standards, the 3Vs also include additional factors which account for evolving and stronger checks relating to ad fraud, online brand safety, ad experience, traffic quality, ad formatting, and data access.

The Trusted Publisher Network is the latest prong in what Unilever is calling its Digital Responsibility Framework.

Digital Responsibility Framework

The next phase of the framework is for Unilever to work with the marketing industry at large to create a new way of measuring cross-media advertising and make the whole process more responsible and transparent.

"To realize our vision of a more transparent and high-quality digital ecosystem, our partnerships have been, and will remain, instrumental in developing an always-on, privacy-safe model for cross-media measurement," said Weed. "We are hugely encouraged that our digital and measurement partners worked with us to enable these significant steps towards solving the challenge of holistic media measurement. This represents a genuine willingness across the industry to find creative, effective solutions to shared issues."

The measurement initiative falls under the infrastructure commitment of the Digital Responsibility Framework, which says Unilever will only partner with organizations which are committed to creating a better digital infrastructure and improving the consumer experience. The other two commitments cover content and platforms and are already being addressed with other initiatives - including the one tackling toxic content.

Final Thoughts

Huge brands such as Unilever can often be perceived as nebulous, opaque, and so far removed from day-to-day life that they aren't concerned by problems such as toxic content. That's what makes it even more powerful that it's choosing to send such a strong message with its new Digital Responsibility Framework. Hopefully, other brands will follow suit and help clean up digital advertising and the internet for everyone.

"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," said Weed. "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."

For more insights, join our upcoming virtual event this June 15 - 16, 2021 - Digital Food & Beverage Connect Virtual Event

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