Unilever, the consumer goods giant and second largest advertiser in the world, is launching a “trusted publishers” network with the aim of giving the company more control and visibility over where its ads are placed online.

Global, regional and local online publishers and platforms will have to meet strict vetting criteria to be included in the scheme, which go beyond Unilever’s existing ‘3Vs’ of viewability, verification and value standards.

They will need to satisfy “additional, evolving and more stringent checks” around ad fraud, online brand safety, ad experience, traffic quality, ad formatting and data access, Unilever said in a statement.

Keith Weed, Unilever’s outgoing CMO, was expected to provide further details at the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Marketer Week in Lisbon, where he was due to emphasise the importance of rebuilding trust across the industry.

The Unilever initiative also comes in the same week that the WFA launched its own call on brands to do more to hold social media platforms to account.

Citing research from MIT Technology Review, Unilever stated that click fraud generates more than $20m per month in profit for those involved, while a separate study from content marketing platform Dianomi has suggested that bots can account for up to 90% of ad campaign clicks.

“We’ve been clear for years about what we want to see online – more consumer trust through greater publisher transparency, more effective use of time and money, and better online experiences for everyone,” said Weed.

“Online advertising credibility is still a global, industry-wide problem and as the world’s second largest advertiser, we have a responsibility to use our scale and influence to address this issue,” he added.

“The Unilever Trusted Publishers will add more rigour to how Unilever advertises online. We want to know that real people, not robots, are enjoying our ads – bots don’t eat a lot of Ben & Jerry’s. We will champion the good actors that help us in this while diminishing the roles of the bad.”

Finally, and in a sign of Unilever’s firm intent, the company said that it expected “most” of its online advertising spend eventually will be made through its new trusted publishers’ protocol.

Sourced from Unilever; additional content by WARC staff