Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – The Power of Ad Dollars

Following a tumultuous few years including the Cambridge Analytica Scandal and an awkward conversation about ‘the internet’ to Congress, Facebook is back in the spotlight again. For all the wrong reasons. Again. If you’ve been caught up elsewhere, you might have missed the huge drama surrounding hate speech and ad dollars. So, what’s it all about? And why are top brands taking a stand against this social media platform? I’m digging deeper into the Stop Hate for Profit campaign. Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – The Power of Ad Dollars.

Facebook Advertising – I Have The Power?

Just like He-Man in my favourite 80s cartoon, Facebook has been a Behemoth advertising power. Holding its lofty sword (ok I will stop now), Facebook generated $69.7 billion for advertising in 2019 alone, more than 98% of its total revenue for the year. With over 8 million advertisers enjoying robust analytics, audience micro-targeting, extensive reach and more, Facebook was quite literally raking it in. So, what’s the current deal with ad boycotts? And why was a staggering $60 billion wiped off of Facebook shares in just two days leading to a very unsettled start to Q3?

Facebook backlash over inappropriate content

Well, it’s all to do with claims that Facebook doesn’t do enough to remove racist and hateful content from its platform. Facebook has been connected with misinformation regarding the recent Black Lives Matter movement and controversial political posts that promote unrest and violence.

For instance, a post by President Donald Trump which addressed riots in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death was left up by Facebook leaders despite reading;

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

This led to a largescale ‘virtual walkout by Facebook employees in protest as the post was seen as being highly provocative during a time of great social unrest. Twitter meanwhile had moved to block the post as it went against their hate speech policies.

Facebook also reportedly included Breitbart News, a far-right site as a ‘trusted’ source in its news service and the right-wing news and opinion site The Daily Caller is one of the company’s fact-checking partners. Breitbart News is on my “do not use” list for writers at my content marketing agency. It, along with other notoriously biased and fascist sites do not provide fair, unbiased or even accurate information.

The Rise of Stop Hate for Profit

In a bid to hold Facebook accountable, a coalition consisting of Colour of Change, NAACP, ADL, Sleeping Giants, Free Press and Common-Sense Media called on Facebook’s advertisers to hit pause on ad spending with the Color of Change website stating:

“From the monetization of hate speech to discrimination in their algorithms to the proliferation of voter suppression to the silencing of Black voices, Facebook has refused to take responsibility for hate, bias, and discrimination growing on their platforms. And what has allowed Facebook to continue racist practices is the $70B of revenue from corporations every year. Companies have a choice to make about whether they want their businesses featured on Facebook’s platforms side-by-side with racist attacks on Black people.”

So far, many huge brands have put their money where their mouth is, supporting the Stop Hate for Profit campaign by pulling their precious ad dollars. These include Adidas, HP, Ford, The North Face, Coca-Cola, Innocent, Honda and many others. Indeed, Facebook saw its stock drop 8% after Unilever halted ad spend on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

A Ford spokesman said:

“We are pausing all US and European social media advertising for the next 30 days to re-evaluate our presence on these platforms. The existence of content that includes hate speech, violence and racial injustice on social platforms needs to be eradicated.”

A Honda Europe spokesman added that the decision was

“In alignment with our company’s values, which are grounded in human respect.”

According to a survey by the World Federation of Advertisers, a third of the top 58 advertisers will, or are likely to suspend advertising, while a further 40% are considering doing so.

Facebook Ad Ban – What’s the Ultimate Goal?

So, it’s clear the Stop Hate for Profit campaign has plenty of momentum. But what’s the ultimate goal? Well, Facebook has been presented with a large number of recommended next steps. These include:

  • Providing more support to people who are targets of racism, antisemitism and hate
  • Creating a threshold of harm on the platform where they will put a target of hate and harassment in touch with a live Facebook employee to help them address their concerns.
  • Releasing data from their existing reporting form around identity-based hate. For example, how many reports of hate speech based on race or ethnicity did they get in 2019? How many, and what kinds of actions were taken?

And many more…

What are the Benefits of Taking a Stand through Ad Budget?

Brand protection

The most obvious benefit of taking a stand through ad budget is to push for change. For instance, if you’re a diverse brand striving for racial equality, there’s no way you want your ad popping up next to some hate speech. Verizon has pulled all Facebook advertising after the ASL posted an open letter about finding a Verizon advert on Facebook that appeared next to a misleading video form the conspiracy group QAnon “drawing on hateful and antisemitic rhetoric.”

Brand values

Joining a social movement such a Stop Hate for Profit is also the perfect opportunity to display brand values and show you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is.

Confectionery group Mars said it was halting its social media advertising across all platforms until further notice. In a statement, the company said:

“Social media platforms play an important role in society, but equally, they have a powerful role to play in stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation. There is no room for discrimination in a healthy society. Mars has a responsibility and an opportunity to make a meaningful and measurable difference in the fight against racism, hate, violence and discrimination – we expect all of the social media platform partners we work with to do the same.”

Organic publicity

Advertising is all about publicity and getting your brand out into the world. By joining high-profile campaigns, you can gain organic publicity across news outlets and your own website/social platforms. By making your voice heard, you can still get noticed without having to shell out for excessive advertising campaigns. This organic approach is what many smaller companies do already. It’s all about the low-cost PR. Of course, this has led to many users calling out brands for “virtue signalling” and joining the cause simply for attention. There are two sides to every argument right? I would say don’t join it if you don’t really mean it or are not truly able to walk the talk.

What’s the Latest?

So, is Zuckerberg listening? Seemingly yes. The Facebook CEO now says Facebook will hide or block content considered hateful or that could harm voting, with no exception for politicians. A Facebook spokesman recently said:

“We’ve opened ourselves up to a civil rights audit, and we have banned 250 white supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram. The investments we have made in AI mean that we find nearly 90% of Hate Speech we action before users report it to us, while a recent EU report found Facebook assessed more hate speech reports in 24 hours than Twitter and YouTube. We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM, and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.”

While Facebook battles on, they’re not the only platform to have faced criticism in recent years. Advertisers yanked their YouTube budgets in 2017 due to content issues, but largely returned. Only to boycott once again over a network of pedophiles “hiding in plain sight” and posting inappropriate comments on videos of children. Brands such as Nestle, Fortnite-creator Epic Games and AT&T publicly pulled or paused their ad spending.

What’s next for Facebook is yet to be seen, so watch this space. But withdrawing ad dollars is certainly a powerful way of highlighting issues. From my side, paid ad budget is minimal as we focus on organic marketing instead of paid. I’m also seeing more brands opting for authentic organic storytelling, social media content and corporate social responsibility which I’m loving. The phasing out of paid advertising could open the doors to more creative talent in the organic advertising field. which would be so exciting to witness.

What do you think about the Facebook ad ban? Do you agree? Tweet me @Charli_Says and let me know. Enjoyed reading Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – The Power of Ad Dollars – go ahead and hit share. Learn more about this issue at www.stophateforprofit.org.