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Unilever to pick 'trusted publishers' for digital advertising

By Martinne Geller and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Unilever, one of the world's biggest advertisers, will pick a network of "trusted publishers" with which to spend most of its marketing budget, in its latest attempt to improve the effectiveness of its digital advertising.

The initiative by the consumer goods giant, to be announced on Thursday, is aimed at giving the maker of Dove soap and Hellmann's mayonnaise more control and visibility over where its ads are placed, in the hope of reducing ad fraud and improving brand safety and quality of online traffic.

The company declined to say which digital publishers would be included.

"We're first of all going out with our approach and then we'll engage with publishers," Keith Weed, Unilever's soon-to-retire chief marketing officer told Reuters in an interview.

"I think in some ways, this will become a good market standard for expectations on what an advertiser such as Unilever has for engaging the publishers."

Major brands have in the last 10 years shifted vast amounts of their ad spending budgets online, away from newspapers and radio, to reach consumers.

But in recent years major companies have questioned whether the spending is effective, as metrics provided by tech giants like Facebook proved unreliable and unscrupulous players used computerised bots to inflate viewing figures.

Weed has been outspoken about the need to clean up Internet advertising, last year also pledging to pull investment from digital platforms that fail to tackle issues such as toxic content and fake news, and to cut ties with digital media "influencers" that purchase followers.

Weed said that since June, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram have removed some 1.6 billion fake accounts from their platforms.

Weed plans to retire next month after some 36 years at Unilever, the last nine of which were overseeing Unilever's marketing strategy. His replacement has not yet been named.


(Writing by Martinne Geller; editing by David Evans)