Why Unilever and ad money can’t clean up Facebook and Google.

Unilever, who spent $8.6 billion on advertising in 2017, warned Facebook and Google to clean up their act.

According to prepared remarks from Keith Weed, CMO, Unilever will pull its large amount of advertising dollars from Facebook and Google as a result of them failing to improve the online environment of their respective networks.

“As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online. We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain—one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers—which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.” – Keith Weed, Unilever

There are two main reasons why I see this more as a bluff, rather than a threat.

You put your money where the people are

The advertising dollars go to Facebook and Google because that’s where the majority of customers live online today. I cannot imagine Unilever or other companies of the same magnitude saying “We’re going to move our Facebook advertising to Twitter.” Or “We’re not going to use Google Ads. Period.” You just can’t do that because there are no legitimate alternatives to the scale Facebook and Google provide in 2018.

People are not going to leave Facebook (or Google)

While there certainly are concerns from advertisers and investors about people spending less time on Facebook, the overall numbers look good, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The same goes for Google. What other search engine is a verb? People turn first to Google for everything, and the only company that can play catch up is possibly Amazon through Alexa.

Only time will tell

Time will tell how Facebook and Google clean up their networks and decrease how bots affect their ad networks, if at all. If they don’t, there’s certainly the possibility that Unilever’s announcement is only the beginning.