Analysts: Facebook Boycott Unprecedented, But Perhaps Futile

As more brands boycott Facebook over its content policies, analysts and experts are debating the merits of the effort, and what impact it could have on the company.  

“The momentum around this campaign is definitely rising,” eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson said Wednesday.

The campaign, #StopHateForProfit, was launched last week by the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and other civil rights groups, and focuses on Facebook’s refusal to take a harder line on President Trump and other messengers of misinformation and hate.

As of Wednesday, the growing list of brands committed to boycotting Facebook Inc. properties throughout July included Ben & Jerry’s, Eddie Bauer, Magnolia Pictures, Patagonia, The North Face, REI, and Upwork.

In addition, 360i, the digital agency owned by Dentsu Group, recently began encouraging clients to boycott Facebook, according to an internal email obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

“Every brand who advertises on Facebook needs to be asking itself tough questions about its purpose right now,” Jason Kint, CEO of trade association Digital Content Next, tweeted on Tuesday.

Whether or not the boycott will hurt Facebook in the pocketbook is another question.

“I still think this is more symbolic and headline-grabbing vs. something Facebook will be overly concerned about,” according to social media consultant Matt Navarra.

Williamson agreed the boycott is unlikely to impact Facebook’s bottom line.

“Marketers will have a hard time leaving Facebook completely,” she said on Wednesday. “They want to find the best value for their ad dollars, and Facebook’s targeting and broad reach make it a necessary part of their ad buy.”

As such, “At this point we don’t see the boycott having a major impact on Facebook's ad revenues,” Williamson said.

This year, eMarketer now expects Facebook’s U.S. ad revenues to grow 4.9%, to $31.43 billion.

That’s a lower figure than the research firm previously projected, but that’s mainly due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Williamson said.

That said, Williamson said the boycott was unprecedented. “We haven't seen this level of marketer action around Facebook in the past,” she said. “The most recent example, Cambridge Analytica, led to only a few advertisers pulling ad spending.”

Among other offenses, the #StopHateForProfit campaign asserts that Facebook “allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America,” and “amplified white nationalists by including news sources with known extremist ties into their ‘fact-checking’ program.”

For its part, Facebook has said that it supports the boycott.

“We deeply respect any brand’s decision and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information,” Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president, global marketing solutions, recently stated.

“Our conversations with marketers and civil-rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good.”
Next story loading loading..