Unilever lifts ambitious freeze on Facebook and Twitter, but scrutiny remains high


  • Unilever will raise a monthslong freeze on paid marketing on Twitter, Facebook, and Facebook’s Instagram platform starting in January, the company revealed.
  • The news follows through on a promise put forth in June to stop briefly paid social spending on those platforms in the U.S. through 2020. A pullback was enacted as part of Unilever’s Obligation Structure, an internal set of requirements that aims to improve the health, safety, and openness of the digital environment.
  • Unilever stated it was “urged” by platform dedications, including punishing harmful material and more carefully aligning with the International Alliance for Accountable Media (GARM), a market confab that intends to tamp down on hazardous online content. But wider analysis of social media hasn’t cooled, and Facebook, in specific, continues to come to grips with steep reputational and regulative challenges.


Unilever’s lift on its freeze, completed on the original timeline set in June, enhances that the business is more interested in operating in tandem with the significant digital platforms than it remains in having an adversarial relationship that leverages external pressure to force modification.

As a wide-spanning marketer boycott of Facebook emerged over the summer season, Unilever– one of the world’s most significant marketers by media investment– put forth an enthusiastic strategy to stop briefly all paid advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in the U.S. The packed good giant’s embargo extended through 2020, well beyond the one-month freezes vowed by many other marketers. However, Unilever withstood attaching itself to organized boycotts like the #StopHateforProfit campaign that attracted dozens of brands. Aline Santos, one of Unilever’s leading online marketers, told The Drum in July that its pause showing up with the broader boycott movement referred to coincidence.

“We are not part of the Facebook boycott, the relationship that we have with all the social networks is long term,” Santos informed the publication at the time.

The statement issued Thursday makes clear that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have made progress on fronts Unilever thinks about important, consisting of coming to a shared definition of 11 hazardous material locations; more consistent reporting of content considered damaging; more independent auditing; and higher controls for “handling advertiser adjacency” as specified by GARM standards.

“Our long-term goal is to deal with our partners and the market to drive systemic change. We are encouraged by the dedications the platforms are making to develop much healthier environments for consumers, brand names, and society in positioning with the principles of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media,” Luis Di Como, EVP of international media at Unilever, said in a statement. “We will continue to reassess our position as needed.”

GARM, a partnership between major marketers like Unilever and Procter & & Gamble and the World Economic Online forum, formed in January as part of a unified push to much better combat hazardous online content. For Unilever, participation in the group compliments an internal Responsibility Structure established a number of years ago that wants to ensure that the company focuses its resources on accountable digital platforms, content, and facilities.

Some might be doubtful of Unilever’s decision, as analysis of platforms like Facebook has just heightened considering that the summer on both the general public and regulatory fronts. The social networking giant is now subject to two separate antitrust suits– one from the Federal Trade Commission, another from a group of more than 40 states– that implicate the company of being a social media monopoly. Problems motivating the #StopHateforProfit project, consisting of Facebook’s function in spreading hate speech and misinformation, continue to command the spotlight too.

On the other side, Facebook boycotts created no tangible effect on its service, raising concerns about their effectiveness. The tech business saw ad income dive 22% year-on-year to $21.47 billion in the 3rd quarter, the duration when the freezes remained in full force.

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