Unilever, the world’s second largest advertiser, is breaking from the mold by cracking down on influencers who buy followers.
The owner of brands like Dove soap and Lipton tea, Unilever announced Monday that it would be taking steps to make advertising more transparent.
Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed explained that “urgent action” is needed to “rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.” This includes a pledge that Unilever will never buy followers or work with social media influencers who do so, while also prioritizing social media channels that work to increase transparency themselves.
“The key to improving the situation is three-fold: cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement; making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices; and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact,” Weed said in a statement published by CNBC.
With a reported €7 billion ($8.1 billion) marketing budget, Unilever’s promise is not insignificant. Buying followers has become a growing issue in the influencer marketing space. The more followers an influencer has, the more they are paid, thereby incentivizing the purchase of dummy or bot followers. This in turn has eroded some trust in this type of advertising, while potentially costing a brand a lot of money on advertising that does not reach actual humans.
“There are lots of great influencers out there, but there are a few bad apples spoiling the barrel and the trouble is, everyone goes down once the trust is undermined,” Weed told Reuters.