Facebook holds a giant piece of the online advertising pie and for that reason, claims a tight hold over many institutions’ advertising plans and budgets. Affordable, effective, pivotal for the recruitment drive already difficult in 2020, and for that reason, not so easy to boycott. But for a reason as important as #StopHateforProfit, it’s certainly something to consider.

Organisers, which include Color of Change and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last week launched the campaign #StopHateforProfit, calling on major corporations to put a pause on advertising on Facebook, citing the company's "repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms" and allowing "racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant". Which has left many institutions thinking 'what do we do?’

Depending on where you are reading this, will depend on the types of conversations that are currently circulating within your ecosystems. For those in the US, you're much more likely to be facing the question of whether to suspend your activity or not from your audience, your key stakeholders and yourselves as marketers. You're also much more likely to come in for scrutiny whatever you decide to do. In the UK, these conversations and mentions are generally quieter (at the time of writing this), and therefore you may be feeling less pressured to make a certain decision based on anything other than your own analysis of the situation and what is right for your brand, your students and your individual business goals. 

Make every impression truly accountable

We said before, and we’ll say it over and over again, advertising must be approached ethically and with care. Whether that’s on specific platforms or programmatic in general, what you align yourselves with should always be at the forefront. There can be no justification for brands, particularly those in our sector, to fund less than progressive organisations - even if it does return great prices per impression and conversions for your campaign. With the current conversations and movements we’re currently participating in and witnessing, head-in-the-sand ignorance is no longer an option.

So the real question is: are you responsible for the funding of fake news and hate sites

As an agency, we ensure any advertising is only going to be placed and tracked on the appropriate, relevant, brand-positive sites for their audience. With our programmatic advertising, we combine whitelists, blacklists and semantic technologies to filter out sites and placements that could cause brand damage, so we applaud the brands standing up for this worthy cause. Taking this a step forward and looking to platforms’ core values and practices before investing substantial budgets.

What we can do to support you

So while it’s up to you whether you join the #StopHateforProfit movement or not, we do already employ a number of other methods to ensure that your brand is safe.

And we constantly review; the world of fake news and hate-filled semantics is sadly ever-evolving. But most importantly, we focus on the right outcomes, not chasing impressions or clicks (and we even talked about this and Facebook back in 2017).

  • The use of Whitelists and Blacklists

  • Publisher/Provider Take-down Policies

  • Category exclusions

  • Video exclusions 

  • Digital content labelling 

  • Negative keywords

  • Third-party specialist technologies including pre-and-post bid technologies, as well as working with the global leader in ad verification

  • Advertising auditing and analytics

  • I am a strong advocate for the Conscious Advertising Network to drive all of the above forward. 

  • We try to inspire clients to embrace diversity, self-funding our own research that empirically demonstrated why diversity representation is essential.

  • As well as learning how audiences respond to issues such as this, by using Edurank and analysing what content is truly hitting the mark on student site, Student Hut

We take all of that procedure, practice and understanding, and layered on all the data and insights we collect, which means that we are totally and uniquely placed to be able to make these recommendations and in turn, informs all of our strategies.

But what can you do?

This movement has made you question where you put your money and voice too, and that’s not a bad thing. 90% of Gen Z believes companies must act to help social and environmental issues. But here’s the thing you need to take note of; 75% will do research to see if a company is being honest when it takes a stand on issues. If the boycott is something you believe in, above everything make sure it’s authentic. Ask yourself what can you do to show your allegiance to the cause and really create meaningful change, because students do not respect performative activism.

Whether it’s donating the money you would have spent on Facebook to worthy causes and charities, or to use elsewhere in advertising to spread messages of empowerment, inclusivity and diversity. But whatever you do, don’t allow this alliance to be just another PR statement, because students and their influencers will do their research.  

However, we know that you won’t all be able to simply shut off Facebook advertising, which is pivotal in order to meet business objectives, and that’s okay. Facebook is showing work towards a better platform; 71% of the content deemed to be illegal hate speech was removed in 2020, whereas only 28% of content was removed in 2016. So, the question for you is how can you contribute and show your commitment to a better society in other ways? 

We, as an advertising agency, are required to reassess how and where our clients’ brands show up. If we ever feel that content on Facebook, or any of the platforms, is misleading, unclear or negative then it’s a discussion to be had and we would advise a different strategy. The decisions to join a movement, boycott or protest, are ones that should always be made in-house, internally, by you. However, we are here to advise best practice, guide and inspire. In terms of managing the strategy for July, we have options to use, you have options to choose from, from our premium approach to programmatic, our close direct media partners we work with, and so many more. 

If the #StopHateforProfit movement has been on your mind, and you would like to speak to one of our advertising experts about the ways to navigate this meaningfully and sensitively, get in touch today

For more on what we as a business have been doing to stand up for the issues we believe in, take a look here

Article by

Tom Setter

Director of Advertising