Unilever pledges to stop advertising with influencers that buy followers

Unilever announced a new policy which aims to reduce fraud and increase transparency to improve integrity within influencer marketing.

The company has vowed to to stop advertising with influencers who have bought their followers, promised its own brands will never buy followers and that it will prioritise partners who increase their transparency and work to rid poor digital business practices.

f=”https://brightlightsbigcity.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/screen-shot-2018-06-18-at-21-13-28.png”> Unilever’s three new commitments to improving influencer marketing (From: https://www.unilever.com/news/press-releases)[/capt

Buying followers

This is good news for those who grow their social following naturally and bad news for all those who abuse the system. Hopefully this will signal the start of the tide turning against celebrities, vloggers and bloggers who have fake followings which help them secure brand collaborations and paid partnersnhips.

As a company Unilever is the mothership when it comes to household brands, under it’s umbrella it has Dove, Magnum, Lynx, Persil, Marmite and Ben and Jerry’s to name just a few. Influencers regularly work with these brands to increase their awareness and to promote new launches.

A frightening figure in The Times on 18 June 2018 said that according to estimates from industry insiders up to 40 percent of social-media influencers have bought followers. And, that’s just an estimate!

I should imagine the figure is probably much higher than that. Those with fake followings are making it hard for those who are building up a following organically, it’s also probably depriving legitimate influencers from opportunities they could be considered for.

Buying followers undermines the whole system and its about time brands started stamping it out. I bet the next top money making app will be the one that identifies if a person has bought their following or not – developers go, go, go!

It would be fantastic to have some proper research on the number of people who have bought a following too. The sooner we identify the true scale of the problem the quicker it can be addressed and resolved.

What’s your thoughts on people buying followers? It’s a big move from Unilever, do you think it’s the right one?


Personally, I think it’s a step in the right direction. An audience should be clear whether an influencer is legitimate. Influencers become influential based on a relationship of trust, transparency and confidence with their audience. Influencer marketing relies on that un-tarnished link built on trust and confidence which in turn builds a good reputation. This is basic PR, as soon as reputation is damaged or lost it’s a hard path to re-build it.

The influencers that pay for fake followers risk the reputation of the industry and all other influencers. It’s another example of when the few ruin it for the many.

If this was happening in traditional advertising, the advertising standards agency would have sanctioned the brand and influencer involved to protect the audience.

Where social channels are not properly regulated it’s currently a lot easier for someone to manipulate and deceive their audience should they wish to do so.

That’s not ok, and if it was in any other industry it would not be tolerated. There’s going to be a lot of change at some point and Unilever might have just sparked the match on the topic by bringing it into the national newspaper headlines and the public domain.

Taking action

Commenting, Keith Weed, Unilever CMO said: “In February, I said we needed to rebuild trust back into our digital ecosystems and wider society. One of the ways we can do that is to increase integrity and transparency in the influencer space. We need to address this through responsible content, responsible platforms and responsible infrastructure.

“At Unilever, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships.

“Today we are announcing clear commitments to support and maintain the authenticity and trust of influencer marketing.

“The key to improving the situation is three-fold: cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement; making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices; and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact.

“We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”


Let’s see if Unilever stick to what they’ve said, how they will enforce it? Actually, how will they enforce it if there’s no clear way of seeing who’s paid for follower or not? Are Unilever being given inside information directly from social media platforms? How will Unilever know?

Hmm, lots to think about, Unilever you better play this one straight, because if this is just a stunt, all words and no action, well then that might just come back to bite you on the bum.

P.S. Having just spoke to to Scott Guthrie (PR and influencer marketing ace!) I’m also keen to remind you that it’s all about the financial bottom line for Unilever. A risk to Unilever’s reputation doesn’t sell products, if the followers aren’t real, that also doesn’t sell products and there is no boost to the profits. It’s always about the money, money, money!

Read Unilever’s press release about influencer marketing here

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