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Trust vs. Tech-lash: Responsible Content Now

Building trust into our nascent digital age is the antidote to the current “tech-lash” moment. 2018 is proving to be the year of responsible content, and brands/platforms promoting such content. Gone are the days of blind faith and click baiting, as a new era of trust and meaningful engagement dawns. Let’s dive in.

The term tech-lash refers to the change in public opinion and business sentiment when it comes to social networking services and the internet at large. It’s been a while in the making thanks to recent political turmoil and the proliferation of shady practices. Pure play digital advertising spaces such as Facebook are being held to account when it comes to fake news and hate-filled content, taking a financial hit in the process of cleaning up their act in the name of a more sustainable future. Their business models, which rely heavily on digital advertising, depend on them doing so. Increasingly, we’re seeing big players, most recently digital-advertising-megaspender Unilever, make bold moves to promote trust across the online global landscape.

Which is great news for brands seeking meaningful, long-term and content-driven engagement.

On Tuesday 12 February Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed announced that, from now on they will:

  • only invest in responsible platforms;
  • only produce responsible content;
  • only partner with organisations committed to creating responsible online infrastructure.

This marks a three-pronged power play which will help build trust in the industry. And with a digital advertising spend of 2.5bn euros, Unilever’s announcement really does pack a punch. What’s more, the announcement was a savvy brand-positioning exercise, appealing to consumers who long for further stability,  meaning and sustainability.

Weed highlighted the importance of trust: “I think trust in digital advertising is one of the most important industry issues of our time.” Not to mention how zeitgeist-driven Unilever’s push to build trust within the industry is: “Consumers are also demanding platforms which make a positive contribution to society.”

Unilever’s announcement fits into a changing business climate where sustainability must be taken seriously, because massive institutional investors won’t have it any other way. Blackrock’s CEO’s announcement that companies need(link to to take social issues seriously to stay attractive to investors is part of an responsible investment movement which has been gaining momentum since the UN launch of the Principles for Responsible Investment in 2006, and isn’t looking to slow down.

What would a more reliable digital space look like? Well, for one: stabler democracies for businesses to operate in, and the end of that toxic feedback loop. Less trash/clickbait online, meaning lower risk levels for brands. Less-harried consumers on the net, more in control of their time (and digital habits), and hence more open to connection and engagement with responsible content. Here’s to more moves like Unilever’s. The cure to tech-lash is trust.

It’s no surprise that far-right pundits were not entirely pleased with Unilever’s exertion of power, believing it signals internet censorship and a bias towards a liberal point of view. And indeed, there will be losers in a grand shift to a more trusting, less hate-filled digital space.

But the winners will be publishers and brands producing quality content that resonates with the values of its target audience. Responsible content is the new buzzword in town. We’d give clickbaity digital adverts done by profiteering amateurs a snowball’s chance in hell of producing long-term results. Instead, why not make a lasting impression on audiences’ minds by resonating with their moral MO.

Well worth reading:

– Unilever’s press release (link to

– Dissecting the concept of techlash (link to

Also interesting:

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