Where brands are redirecting their Facebook dollars
CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined plans to tackle disinformation and label harmful content, the kind that has gone unchecked in the past—including posts from President Donald Trump. But almost immediately, the NAACP said Zuckerberg did not go far enough, and that its pressure campaign would not end.
“Facebook is supporting hate, not ‘free speech’” Derrick Johnson, NAACP president, said in the statement. “I am incredibly concerned with Zuckerberg’s response ... Facebook’s inactions are costing us lives.”
The NAACP’s response means the brand boycott will endure, if not grow, putting Facebook’s competitors in a position to capture dollars from brands exploring their options. And the decisions by Unilever and Coca-Cola Co. to extend their freezes beyond Facebook into other social media companies adds a new dynamic to the movement, which had previously focused only on Facebook and its Instagram site. Unilever added Twitter to its freeze list, while Coca-Cola said it would pause spending on all social media platforms, including YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter, globally for at least 30 days. It didn’t say where it might divert money, but an option is to pocket it, and focus on its own sites.
Other boycotting brands are exploring options including Pinterest, Google and TikTok. A spokeswoman from Eddie Bauer, which said that it was pausing advertising on Facebook, says “we will be using those dollars to expand our testing initiatives across the broader social landscape including possible tests with Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok and more.” Eileen Fisher, the sustainably-minded womenswear brand, has stopped advertising with Facebook and will be using that money for “a variety of channels such as email, organic social as well as performance media,” according to a spokeswoman.
Another outdoors retailer, Orvis, has also suspended its Facebook advertising through July. The company will use a “significant” portion of those funds toward partnerships with the Black and indigenous people of color communities, the company says. Similarly, REI will also do more work with nonprofit partners—the company recently announced two $100,000 donations to the National Urban League and NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.
The North Face, which was the first major brand to announce it was boycotting Facebook due to the platform’s stance on hate speech, says it is looking at “other top priority partners such as Google and Pinterest,” a spokeswoman says.
Patagonia says it’s too early to share plans. Unilever, which spent $504,100 on Facebook and $790,000 on Instagram for the three weeks ending June 21, according to Pathmatics, says it plans to redirect spending. Unilever will also halt ads on Twitter.
Several brands participating in the July boycott are already trending down on their Facebook spend. Last year, for the week ending June 25, The North Face spent $100,000 on Facebook; this year, the company spent just $200, according to data from Pathmatics. Similarly, Patagonia spent $800 on Facebook for the week ended June 25 compared with $40,000 for the period last year.
Many brands have curtailed their ad spending during the pandemic, so year-over-year comparisons are less valid than normal. Coke, for instance, paused most paid advertising during the first seven weeks of the pandemic, before slowly bringing it back in mid-May.
Shifting dollars can be tricky, especially for smaller brands. Michelle Riches, a senior social media strategist for Pittsburgh agency Smith Brothers, says her team is “advising clients on a case-by-case basis.”
“For some large companies (including the prominent ones that are participating), shifting advertising spend is straightforward and wouldn’t have a profound effect on their revenue,” Riches told Ad Age. “For others, it’s a tougher decision because it could seriously impact them during an already difficult time.”
Will Campbell, CEO and founder of Los Angeles-based Quantasy & Associates says his team recently guided a client away from a Facebook campaign.
Campbell says the brand, which he declined to identify, was considering Facebook for an ad campaign before the boycott. When the boycott gained momentum, Campbell says the brand questioned whether it should move forward with Facebook, noting that some of its partners had joined in on the boycott.
“They questioned whether they should continue to advertise or stick with partners that are boycotting,” Campbell says. “Our advice was to align with the partners [in boycotting].”
The protest has not captured every brand and agency. Cara Lewis, EVP of video investment at Amplifi US, said Facebook is an important partner, echoing other executives on an Ad Age panel discussing the NewFronts Friday. “There’s probably others and so we can’t just walk away from every single vendor, and we also can’t support it. So, I think, we need to all work together,” she said.
Contributing: Lindsay Rittenhouse, E.J. Schultz