Unilever announces 'trusted publishers' network but won't disclose details

FMCG giant is continuing its fight to clean up digital advertising.

Weed: 'Trusted publishers' network will 'add more rigour to how Unilever advertises online'
Weed: 'Trusted publishers' network will 'add more rigour to how Unilever advertises online'

Unilever has launched the next phase in its mission to clean up digital advertising by creating a network of "trusted publishers" that it says adhere to its values, which include not investing in platforms that "promote anger, hate or create division".

However, Unilever said it would not name the publishers on the list because it was a "source of competitive advantage".

A spokeswoman specifically refused to be drawn on whether the list included MailOnline, the UK's most-read newspaper website, which has in the past been accused of fomenting hatred with content such as a story from 2016 about the judicial decision that Brexit could not be delivered without a parliamentary vote.

The headline of that story, which referred to high court justices as "enemies of the people", was condemned by politicians and commentators for its divisive langauge. More than 1,000 people complained to press regulator Ipso about the article.

Unilever insisted that the vetting criteria for selection would "go beyond Unilever's existing 3Vs – viewability, verification and value standards".

Part of Unilever's "responsibility framework" includes a commitment to "not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which promote anger, hate or create division in society".

The commitment reads: "We will prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society."

Unilever's network of "trusted publishers" comprises global, regional and local online publishers and platforms – a group that the company said it will work closely with to "gain more control and visibility over where its adverts are placed". This included negating the chances of its ads being viewed by bots rather than readers.

Publishers will have to satisfy additional 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," Unilever said in a statement.

Keith Weed, Unilever's outgoing chief marketing and communications officer, said: "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."

The announcement of the "trusted publishers" network marks the second phase in Unilever's "responsibility framework". In January, the company announced the development of a cross-media measurement model.