Trust, transparency, and the digital revolution

This week Unilever called Facebook and Google “toxic to children”, threatening to pull all advertising from the platforms unless they address their issues with transparency and ethically questionable content.

This is a bold move from a brand like Unilever, who currently spend 9.8 billion dollars a year on advertising; A quarter of which is spent on digital ads. But like all good stories, as I started digging, what started out as a brand vs platform war quickly became a small piece of a much bigger picture.

Keith Weed, Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer made many compelling arguments in his speech. However, this quote is what I found most compelling :

I had the pleasure of listening to Elamin¬†Abdelmahmoud, the social media editor for BuzzFeed Canada speak at Queen’s University recently. I expected to be entertained but instead came away with many deep thoughts about our digital culture.

Yes, you read that right.

Deep thoughts. About BuzzFeed. Stay with me here…

He posed an interesting question to the audience – If you were in the midst of a revolution would you know it? And as I walked out of the ARC that night I was certain that we were. And also certain that I had no idea what I was in the middle of.

Our digital landscape is on the precipice of a revolutionary change. Trust in digital media is low – currently less than half of Canadians trust digital media. We’re constantly connected, and bombarded, and yet in many ways, we’re more disconnected than ever.

Technology has developed at a lightning pace. For a long time, we were so focused on innovation that we weren’t taking note of the monster we’ve created. We didn’t see the revolution happening around us.

I grew up alongside our digital world. I remember a time without it, and can’t imagine living without it.¬† And that’s messed up.

We’ve messed up.


I don’t think we’ll all be tossing our smartphones in a dumpster, however, I do feel like maybe we’re finally ready to put the humanity back in the internet.

I might also be delusional.

So where do we go from here? I honestly don’t know. But I’m paying attention now. And I hope you are too.

Stay tuned, because this story… our story… isn’t over yet.

(Part 2 coming soon)