Why Freedom of Speech Does Not Equal Freedom to Monetize

Unilever's Jennifer Gardner elaborates on the company's decision to stop spending on social media

diana pearl jennifer gardner
Adweek's Diana Pearl spoke with Unilever's Jennifer Gardner about placing ads in today's media landscape. Adweek
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Amid an organized effort to boycott Facebook for mismanaging hateful and misleading content on its platform, Unilever was one of the first major companies to put a pause on its U.S. social media ad spend. Those measures are in place until the end of 2020.

During Adweek’s NexTech 2020 virtual summit, the British-Dutch CPG manufacturer said the decision is not part of an official movement. Rather, it’s the latest development in an ongoing discussion around brand safety in an evolving media ecosystem.

“The bottom line is it comes [down] to accepting responsibility that free speech does not mean the freedom to monetize,” explained Jennifer Gardner, Unilever’s senior director of media, North America. “Advertisers need to have more visibility on the content that you’re allowing on your platform and why you’re allowing it.”

During her discussion with Adweek deputy brands editor Diana Pearl, Gardner shared her thoughts on transparency, attribution and what it will take for Unilever to resume advertising on social media, noting that there are “plenty of options for us to spend our money.”

Last week, Unilever beat analysts’ expectations by posting a 0.3% sales drop for the quarter ending June 30. Throughout the same time period, the maker of Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise saw its ecommerce business spike 62%, as more people have gone online to shop during the pandemic.

See Pearl’s full conversation with Gardner below.


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@hiebertpaul paul.hiebert@adweek.com Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.
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