Unilever, which owns household names such as Marmite and PG Tips, has vowed to stop its brands running adverts on porn sites. The move comes after its men’s grooming range Dollar Shave Club ran a campaign on the controversial website Pornhub.
The Sunday Times raised concerns over the ads, alleging Pornhub had failed to remove illegal content from the site. Pornhub told the BBC it disputed the claims, but Unilever said it was “extremely concerned”.
The consumer good giant said that it had been unaware of Dollar Shave Club’s campaign, and that the shaving brand had “operational independence” over its marketing activities.
“We don’t support advertising on porn sites, and we are extremely concerned about the content that the Sunday Times shared with us,” a spokesman said.
“This type of content is deeply troubling, and we will ensure that none of our brands advertise on Pornhub again, or on any other porn sites.
“Dollar Shave Club has also confirmed that they will not advertise with Pornhub again, or on any other porn sites.”
Dollar Shave Club, which posts razors to customers, ran a time limited campaign on Pornhub earlier in 2019.
One ad read: “If you use our bathroom products you won’t have to visit this site as much.”
It is not illegal to advertise on porn sites. However, claims the ads may have appeared next to illegal content will have embarrassed Unilever, which bought the brand in 2016.
The consumer goods giant has threatened to remove ads from Facebook and YouTube in the past if they failed to take down offensive content.
And in March it said it was compiling a “whitelist” of “trusted publishers”.
Adding to this, Dollar Shave Club’s creative director, Matt Knapp, has publicly defended the decision to advertise on Pornhub, calling it “strategic”.
In May he told the marketing journal Mi3: “It’s not expensive. But interestingly, the exposure that you can get and the impressions are huge.”
Pornhub, a Canadian site which allows users to upload pornographic content, has 110 million daily visits and 71% of its audience are male. That has made it a popular site for advertisers targeting male consumers.
But according to reports in the Sunday Times this weekend, the platform has been failing to take down illegal content.
Pornhub says illegal content is banned on the site and will be removed swiftly. But the newspaper claimed some videos it had viewed had been on the site for as long as three years.
Charity watchdog the Internet Watch Foundation has said it has found 47 examples of child sexual abuse on the website so far this year.
In 2017 there were 29 cases and in 2018 there were 42.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper said the paper’s findings were “horrendous” and called for a police investigation.
Pornhub vice president Blake White said the firm found child abuse images “horrific” and worked with charities and enforcement agencies around the world to tackle it.
“We also have a robust internal policy by which we remove this content, including scanning all content to determine whether it is consensual or not, employing a team of expertly trained human reviewers who monitor for specific cues and criteria, and by making it as easy as possible to flag illegal content.”
Mr Blake added that criminals had become more sophisticated in disseminating abusive images but argued that the firm’s tactics “are working”.
Quoting the Internet Watch Foundation, he said that out of the more than five million videos posted to the website, .0000098% were confirmed to be child sexual abuse material.
“That is less, proportionately, than confirmations made by the IWF in 2018 and 2017.”
Kraft Heinz, which owns Capri Sun and Weight Watchers, has also come in for criticism for advertising on Pornhub.
It took over the website’s homepage for a day in January to promote Devour, its frozen food brand, using a campaign inspired by #FoodPorn.
A Kraft Heinz spokesman said: “The brand was explicitly talking about #Foodporn, which has become a cultural phenomenon on Instagram.”