Unilever will ‘champion’ good actors with next phase of digital ad clean-up

The world’s second-largest advertiser is tightening rules for publishers in a move to reduce click fraud, which is estimated to generate more than $20m per month in profit for those involved.

Unilever is launching stricter advertiser criteria for publishers in an effort to boost consumer trust and “add more rigour” to how it advertises online.

The advertiser responsible for brands including Dove, Hellmann’s and Marmite believes bringing global, regional and local online publishers and platforms together under a ‘Trusted Publishers’ network will help it gain more control and visibility over where its adverts are placed.

“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,” says Unilever’s outgoing CMO 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.”

It is estimated that click fraud generates more than $20m (£15m) per month in profit for those involved, with further research suggesting bots can account for up to 90% of ad campaign clicks.

The vetting criteria for selection to the network will include Unilever’s ‘3Vs’ – viewability, verification and value standards – as well as additional standards that take into account evolving and more stringent checks around ad fraud, online brand safety, ad experience, traffic quality, ad formatting and data access.

Unilever says most of its online advertising spend will eventually be made through this protocol.

The Trusted Publishers network marks the next phase of Unilever’s ‘digital responsibility framework’, which covers three key areas: responsible platforms, responsible content and responsible infrastructure.

It comes just over 12 months after Unilever warned platforms such as Facebook and Google that it will pull investment unless they “overhaul their behaviour” and tackle issues such as fake news and toxic content.

In January 2019, Unilever said it had made “significant steps” towards building a cross media measurement model which has been developed in partnership with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Kantar Media and Nielsen.

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