In the last few weeks, major nonprofits, brands, and agencies have decided to boycott Facebook advertising in protest of the company’s policies. The underlying concerns are even broader than the hashtag indicates: not just hate speech, but also issues ranging from algorithmic racism to voter suppression. The growing list of participants includes Coca-Cola, Color of Change, ADL, Common Sense Media, Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, The Hershey Company, Verizon, and more than 200 others, united with one cause: “We are asking all businesses to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”
Public Good’s Point of View
In previous cases, like its delayed response to Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook has shown that it will downplay concerns and only make significant changes when its profits and freedom to operate are at risk. Companies with genuine concerns about Facebook’s policies should thus consider joining #StopHateForProfit, but they should also be aware that even intense pressure for just one month is unlikely to spur change. As some brands have already done, they will need to reconsider their long-term media purchasing until their concerns are met. On the bright side, this creates an opportunity to look at innovative alternatives, especially ones that align spend, performance, and values.
Even companies without strong historical standing on these issues should consider participation, since breaking the boycott will have its own repercussions. Consider the pressure put on brands who did not withdraw their media and sponsorship from NRA channels in the wake of the Parkland shooting, for example. Given its momentum, the decision not to participate in #StopHateForProfit is as significant as the choice to join.
We join in hoping that this pressure will get Facebook to make meaningful change and become a brand-safe place for advertising as well as a robust, hate-free, fake-news-free public square.
In the meantime, advertisers should consider alternatives that build trust and actively support societal needs like reputable mainstream new outlets.
An Opportunity For Purposeful Companies
For companies with a deep sense of purpose and corporate social responsibility, this moment provides an opportunity to create a new alignment that will massively benefit them beyond the immediate boycott. These brands are already aware that in 2020 and the foreseeable future, all communications and marketing must acknowledge the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, social unrest, a critical election that will determine much about the direction of the country, and more. In short: in 2020, all marketing and communications must include purpose.
In the past, there has been a separation between CSR and marketing, and purpose has been communicated through social media, earned media, and events. While CSR owns the story that needs to be told right now, these channels are all at risk due to the boycott, the pandemic, and shrinking newsrooms. But together, these challenges represent an enormous opportunity. Companies that create a tighter connection between marketing and CSR will thrive in this environment. CSR can finally gain access to the budgets it needs to meaningfully move corporate KPIs and further align all stakeholders to their mission. Marketing will have a whole new range of channels and messages that will resonate much more strongly with consumers who are looking for organizations to trust and support.
Brands that do not take this opportunity will fall further behind as silence is interpreted as inaction.
Public Good is a leading channel aligned with this opportunity. It empowers brands to reach people at the moment they are strongly motivated to see and make change: when they are reading news articles about issues that matter most to them. Our unique AI-for-Good platform is integrated with major news sites including CNN, HuffPost, Vox, Vice, and USA Today. We make the news actionable by placing relevant actions a reader can take, from volunteering to contacting Congress, directly in the news content. And those actions can be branded in support of companies’ purpose programs. The result is that people are empowered to make a difference alongside brands they know, which builds a tighter connection, boosts brand affinity, and ultimately drives purchasing preference. It’s doing well by doing good.
And it works. For example, our Golden Halo Award-winning program for Burt’s Bees ran on content about climate change and generated reader pledges to preserve nature while reaffirming the company’s commitment to sustainability. Mars, Microsoft, Unilever, and many others have successfully used Public Good to deliver 10-100x the participation rates of traditional ads, support issues from hunger to homelessness, and meaningfully move consumer brand sentiment. Is your company interested in seeing that kind of change and being a leader in the field? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org