Pernod Ricard wants brands to calculate 'hate footprint’ in bid to curb social media hate speech
Pernod Ricard is borrowing a page from the environmental movement in a bid to curb online hate speech. The liquor giant will push brands to begin reporting their “hate footprint” as part of a wide-ranging effort aimed at combating the kind of social media behavior that led to last summer’s Facebook ad boycott.
Pernod Ricard CEO Ann Mukherjee will unveil the proposal today during a speech at the ANA Masters of Marketing conference (held virtually this year) in a bid to get other companies to participate in the Pernod-led program, which it dubs “#EngageResponsibly.”
Details are still being fleshed out but the effort will involve tagging players such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with a score that reflects the amount of hate speech occurring on their platforms at any given time. A brand’s hate footprint score will be commensurate with how much media they are spending on each platform. If Facebook scores high on hate speech, for instance, a brand will have a higher hate footprint if they spend a lot of ad money on the platform. Brands can choose to offset their hate footprint by donating money to groups that fight hate speech—a process similar to how companies that emit a lot of carbon can buy carbon offsets, such as investing in renewable energy programs, for instance.
Pernod uses an environmental analogy in a video plugging the effort. It compares climate calamities like rising oceans and falling forests to social media spaces that “are now under threat.”
The ANA has endorsed the effort along with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media. The group, known as GARM, was formed last year by the World Federation of Advertisers to address brand safety issues. It includes participation from advertisers, media agencies and media companies, including Facebook and Twitter.
Pernod's program also seeks to incentivize social media users to flag hate speech as they see it. For instance, Pernod wants to organize an awareness campaign, which will potentially include paid advertising, to remind people to use the built-in tools Facebook and Twitter have to individually flag tweets and posts as potentially violating their standards.
Pernod, with help from Salesforce, is also developing a tool that people can use to flag questionable content outside of the means provided by the social media companies. It’s a pretty simple set-up: Users can send direct messages to @EngageResponsibly and the group promises to then forward the complaints to the social media companies. “We are not arbiters of what’s right and wrong. We are sharing it with the platforms, making them aware that this is being surfaced as an issue,” Pernod Ricard North American Chief Marketing Officer Pam Forbus said in an interview. “Some consumers—we’ve done our research on this—say they want an easier way to report.”
Direct message approach
Pernod—whose brands include Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey—was among more than 1,000 advertisers that participated in July’s #StopHateForProfit ad boycott, which was aimed at pressuring Facebook to do more to curb hate speech. Pernod originally outlined plans to create an app that consumers can use to identify hate speech on social media. But “as we got into it, we took a very consumer-centric design, we didn’t want the consumers to have to leave and go somewhere else to do this,” Forbus said, describing the direct message approach.
July’s boycott “raised awareness [but] it really didn’t solve the problem,” Forbus said. “What we are saying today is we are going to actively solve the problem with this tool for consumers and with this coalition to help calculate the volume of hate on these platforms.”
Despite the large number of brands participating, the boycott did little to stop Facebook’s profit-making machine, since a vast majority of the social media company’s ad base comes from small businesses. But big marketers such as Pernod have a lot at stake in Facebook and other social media companies cleaning up hate speech because brands can be swept into controversies if their ads run near questionable content.
Pernod’s @EngageResponsibly initiative is among a litany of new industry-led programs aimed at hate speech, including some from ad agency holding companies. Omnicom, for instance, in August announced the Council on Accountable Social Advertising, which involves working with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Reddit and TikTok to offer new controls to limit where ads appear.
Pernod’s program is backed by WPP, whose Wavemaker is the company’s media agency of record.