An Open Letter to Unilever CMO Keith Weed: Ethical Ad Placement and Brand Safety
When I first read the CNN article about you calling on Facebook and Google to clean up the ad “swamp” they’ve allowed to develop on their platforms, I was completely shocked. It’s not everyday you see someone of your esteem hold two of the largest advertising platforms in the world accountable for something as flagrant as contributing to the heightened state of consumer distrust in our society. As the father of two young, impressionable children who are exposed to objectionable content online everyday, and as the CEO of an affiliate ad network that touches the lives of tens of millions consumers each month, I felt compelled to write you a letter.
For starters, I admire your courage to speak with such conviction in an era where tech giants are held in high regard simply for creating a monopoly. An executive like you with decision-making authority over billions of dollars on digital ads has obvious influence, and you’re using that influence to cultivate change. Big change. Change that will impact people worldwide and shape advertising standards for years to come.
I’ve always had the mindset to think globally and act locally. I remember a few years back when electronic cigarettes were the hot new retail trend. Our network has the ability to deliver ads to millions of people in a short period of time and we had the opportunity to generate significant revenue by promoting the product via email campaigns. However, when we considered the implications of advertising a brand with questionable health standards and a proclivity to target addicts and children, it was an immediate no for us.
We don’t always come across people who understand our dilemma. After all, “business is business,” right? Not for me. Not for Madrivo’s employees and their families and friends who are affected by our business decisions. Since the inception of our network, we’ve lived by a rule: if we’re presented with ads or strategies that we’d be ashamed to show our grandmothers, we don’t run the campaign. This hasn’t made my job easy. There are countless opportunities that we have had to pass on and a lot of money left on the table as a result. Nevertheless, our executive board decided long ago that, while it’s hard to say no to a lucrative deal, it’s even harder to be at peace with yourself if you’re contributing to the harm of humanity.
We work every day to promote our clients’ brands in ways that are not only effective, but responsible and ethical. Our mission statement guides us: Madrivo exists to connect consumers to respected brands through valuable ads that improve quality of life. On that note, I want to pledge my solidarity to help make this year “the year that we start rebuilding trust.” The Madrivo family is committed to helping brands with products and services that truly improve the lives of consumers and promoting their offers through ethical and compliant means.
Thank you for shedding light on an issue that faces so many business owners on a daily basis. We are fighting this fight together and my hope is that decision makers, regardless of company size and market share, will realize the need for transparency in advertising and the altruistic benefit of rebuilding consumer trust.