Facebook has been widely criticized over the years for not moderating hate speech. Thanks to the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, his guidelines have been examined more closely in recent weeks. The campaign was launched by civil rights groups in the United States and has resulted in some of Facebook’s biggest customers getting their July ads from the social media platform.
99% of Facebook’s $ 70.7 billion (£ 55 billion) revenue comes from advertising, and the boycott initially caused Facebook’s market value to decrease 8% ($ 72 billion) . Despite the hundreds of companies that have signed up and big names like Adidas, Coca-Cola, Diageo and Unilever on board, the likelihood that this will lead to significant changes on Facebook is still slim.
[Read: Zuck thinks boycotting advertisers will return to Facebook — and he could be right]
This is because Facebook has a huge cushion of money to end the campaign. Although many well-known names are involved in the campaign, these large companies account for less than 1
Of course, there is real potential for forcing Facebook to change its policies as more advertisers join the campaign. Facebook is not aware of these dire consequences. It organized a call with a number of advertisers through the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s trading committee, and executives said Facebook had recognized that it was experiencing a “lack of trust” and expressed willingness to listen to customers’ concerns.
But even as the ad boycott continued to grow, Facebook showed no signs of withdrawing and meeting the campaign’s demands. CEO Mark Zuckerburg is also said to have said the employees privately: “I suspect that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon.”
He has good reason to believe that. The balance of power between Facebook and advertisers benefits Facebook very much. The possibilities to advertise in the digital space are very limited, since Facebook also controls Instagram.
To put real pressure on Facebook to change its content moderation policies, an unprecedented level of unity is required across the advertising world. This includes both advertising agencies and the advertisers themselves. While the content of ads is usually created by advertising agencies in collaboration with the advertised companies, the location where these ads appear is primarily determined by the advertising agency.
Advertising agencies are therefore a central part of the system. Without agencies that join the boycott in large numbers, the campaign will achieve very little. Some have joined, including Goodby Silverstein, who brought his customers, including Adobe, BMW, Doritos, and Pepsi. But it seems to be the only agency that makes this kind of statement.
While most advertising agencies have expressed public support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the way they advise their customers on Facebook is more mixed. A recent survey by PR Week magazine found that less than half of respondents advised their customers to move away from Facebook. Martin Sorrell, one of the biggest names in advertising, said: “If you [the clients] Ask for my opinion, I don’t think boycott is the solution. “
The major full-service advertising agencies such as WPP and Publicis, who are the real decision-makers when it comes to advertising for their customers, must publicly support the boycott so that it has more impact.
Turn the page
The other key nut to crack is small advertisers. If they don’t join the boycott in bulk, the campaign’s financial impact on Facebook will be very limited. This will prove difficult.
Small businesses make up the bulk of Facebook’s revenue. They really value the platform because they can address their customers much more accurately at a reasonable cost – something that wasn’t possible a decade ago.
And with COVID-19, these small businesses really need cash. Some may even see this boycott as an opportunity to actually increase their footprint on Facebook and Instagram. If ad rates drop due to the number of large advertisers, they’ll get more for their money.
The Stop Hate for Profit campaign indicates that businesses don’t want their ads to appear alongside hate speech. However, small businesses are aware that they don’t have much control over where their ads appear on Facebook, beyond the target market they choose. If the campaign can show more clearly that ads on Facebook are not preferred by the target market of these small businesses or do not fit their own business ethos, they can join the boycott. But the costs for them are much higher than for large companies.
Ultimately, this can only turn around through collective action by large and small advertisers in significant numbers – along with the entire advertiser community.
This article was republished from The Conversation by Paurav Shukla, Professor of Marketing at the University of Southampton, under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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