Could Brands Afford To Boycott Facebook?

You know how consumers are supposed to only want to do business with brands that share our values? We all say this is true and then continue to shop with Amazon, sip at Starbucks, and get rugby boots from Sports Direct while jumping down rabbit holes on Facebook and YouTube.

We say one thing and we do another. Brands are the same. Well, mostly. Unilever claims to have developed a publisher network built around publishers it says it can trust to bear its many brands' names.

The trouble is, though, as Campaign reports today, it isn't spilling the beans on the criteria for drawing up the list, and crucially, isn't saying who is or is not on the list. Basically, it won't say whether it has dropped Google or Facebook or whether Mail Online's constant speaking out against Remainers has proven to be a step too far.

It's timely because the WFA is calling on advertisers to give thought to whom they spend their ad dollars with. It has issued a call today for brands to hold social media platforms to account, and it has made it very clear that is doing so in solidarity with the Association of New Zealand Advertisers (ANZA) which has called for a Facebook boycott after the Christchurch terror attacks were live-streamed on the site.  

However, here's the tricky part. The WFA wants advertisers to hold the social giants to account and to make them realise they have a moral duty to behave responsibly, but there is no direction for how to implement this call to action. 

Is the WFA suggesting this is something to bring up the next time an advertiser talks to their agency, or when they see someone from Facebook or Google? Is this something they should write to Zuckerberg about? 

Or is the WFA even suggesting that brands should boycott Facebook and perhaps other social media platforms too? It's simply unclear. It's an idea, rather than a call to a specific action. Unfortunately, it's only a specific action, like a boycott, that will get a tech giant's attention. Mind you, we've had YouTube boycotts before and they have not impacted Google's massive revenues. 

The really difficult thing is this. Social media platforms and YouTube are the go-to guys on a media plan for a handful of very good reasons. They offer massive scale and they have vast data capabilities and so can offer good targeting. The other really big thing? When you throw this all in the pot, most advertisers would agree that they are good value for money. 

Sure, the quality isn't always there and there is an ever-present brand image risk, but it would be hard to imagine that the rest of the world is going to heed the ANZA call to drop Facebook.

I think this is why the WFA is asking advertisers to consider holding social media platforms to account. It probably knows a boycott call will get a lot of nods at its annual conference today but would lead to little action.

That's why brands are just like us. They have values and they say they only want to work with people that hold those values. Then, they carry on throwing money at a social media giant that was used to live-stream mass slaughter, is under question over its tax strategy around the world, and just for good measure, is being investigated for possible privacy abuses after being central to a privacy scandal in which its users feel duped into helping Trump win the election.

So be thoughtful about where you spend your ad budget. Advertisers, over to you.

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