Facebook ($FB) was supposed to be a good thing. When Mark Zuckerberg founded the social media platform in 2004, he claimed it would bring people together and streamline communication. In recent years, it’s become a breeding ground for controversy in its failings to eliminate hate speech and fake news.
Companies have been making an effort to get on the right side of history in the public eye. Brands are pledging to dedicate 15% of inventory to Black-owned businesses and apologizing for toxic company cultures. Along with this attempt at corporate woke-ness, many companies are joining an advertiser boycott on Facebook. Are these acts of good will or damage control as they watch other brands getting outed on social media? You be the judge!
Last week, a civil rights coalition including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP launched the #StopHateforProfit campaign. The campaign requested major corporations to pause all advertising on Facebook to protest the company’s "repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms." Companies like Patagonia, REI, North Face, Ben & Jerry’s, and Upwork were among the first to jump on board.
CNN has a running list of all the companies that have joined the boycott. We dove into our database to look into a few of these boycotting brands, the Facebook engagement they’ll be losing, and the state of their other social media channels.
Adidas ($XETRA:ADS) is the latest to announce it will pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram globally. The sportswear company counts about 38 million likes on Facebook and 37 million followers on Instagram. That’s a lot of eyes to lose, but a lot of respect to gain from its consumers.
"Racist, discriminatory, and hateful online content have no place in our brand or in society," the company said in a statement. "As we focus on better practices within our company and communities to ensure lasting change in the fight against racism, Adidas and Reebok will also pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram globally throughout July."
On Twitter, the brand’s following is only 4 million strong. The profile banner reads, “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Adidas hasn’t mentioned how the company will handle Twitter content, but the platform could serve as a fresh start of sorts, a place to implement new ad strategy.
The statement adds that Adidas and Reebok will take the next month to “develop criteria to hold ourselves and every one of our partners accountable for creating and maintaining safe environments."
Coca-Cola ($KO) is pausing social media advertising on Facebook, as well as the brand’s other social media channels, "for at least 30 days" starting in July.
According to our data, Coca-Cola’s Facebook likes have been dropping since last year, so the soft drink giant won’t be losing much by skipping out on those ads. One million people clicked “unlike” on the company’s Facebook page since October. Mentions of the brand have fallen 72% since November.
Halting Twitter ads won’t hurt Coca-Cola either. The follower count has been in sharp decline since 2018.
Clorox ($CLX) will pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram through the end of the year. Of course, this boycott won’t leave a stain on the hottest brand of the pandemic. Clorox doesn’t need advertising at this point. With the entire country stocking up and selling out of its branded wipes, Clorox’s marketing is consumer-generated. Facebook mentions peaked at 21,000 in March.
In a statement on its website, Clorox predicted an increase in hate speech "through the balance of the year." The company said it will put its Facebook ad budget toward other media. Clorox will likely focus on its less prominent brands like Pinesol and Burt’s Bees.
"We will continue to monitor this situation and revisit our position as needed," it said. "In the meantime, we will evolve our standards and guidelines for progress for all platforms and publishers to reflect our rising expectations for greater responsibility as these channels continue to become a more important part of people's lives."
Women’s clothing brand Eileen Fisher ($PRIVATE:EILEENFISHER) is one company that will likely benefit from the Facebook boycott. EF said Wednesday it will pause paid ads on Facebook and Instagram through July. The brand’s Facebook mentions surged after the announcement.
Plus, the company has a pretty sizable Twitter following to fall back on, 11,600 users to be exact.
The candy corporation will join the Facebook boycott for July and "cut [its] spending on Facebook and their platforms, including Instagram, by a third for the remainder of the year."
"We do not believe that Facebook is effectively managing violent and divisive speech on their platform," the company said in a statement. "Despite repeated assertions by Facebook to take action, we have not seen meaningful change. Earlier this month we communicated to Facebook that we were unhappy with their stance on hate speech.”
Facebook likes for Hershey’s have been decreasing since November. The brand’s mentions ebb and flow with the occasional spike. But, like most of these major companies, the boycott won’t hurt the bottom line. The boycott is a gesture aiming to make a major corporation likable, human, and most importantly, “woke.” Hershey did not share details on how it will handle Twitter, where its brands total over 700,000 followers.
Honda’s US division is the first car manufacturer to sign onto the campaign. The automaker announced it will pull marketing content from Facebook and Instagram for the month of July. Honda has seen its Facebook likes and mentions surge since April. Mentions are up 245% alone. The company has not yet addressed content for its @HondaInAmerica account, which currently boasts 22,600 followers.
The apparel company is pausing all ads on Facebook and Instagram for July as part of the campaign. "We are voicing our concern about Facebook's failure to stop the spread of misinformation and hate speech on its platform," Levi Strauss said in a statement. "We believe this inaction fuels racism and violence and also has the potential to threaten our democracy and the integrity of our elections."
All Levi Strauss brands, including Levi’s and Dockers, have seen their Facebook likes plummet over the past six months, maybe partially due to people avoiding jeans in quarantine. Levi Strauss’ Twitter follower count has been crawling upward, so it’s possible the company will reallocate its money to advertising on the platform.
Microsoft ($MSFT), one of Facebook’s biggest advertisers, stopped advertising on Facebook and Instagram back in May. The company spent around $116 million on the platform in 2019, making it Facebook’s third-largest advertiser after Home Depot and Walmart, as CNN reports. Apparently, this decision is not linked to a campaign or boycott, and the pause has no end in sight. The company’s Facebook likes have actually increased since May.
Patagonia pulled advertising on Facebook and Instagram on Sunday. "From secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice, the stakes are too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred," Patagonia wrote in a thread on Twitter.
Facebook mentions of the outdoor apparel retailer have been falling, while likes continue to rise. With mentions down 96% from May, the company might even benefit from the boycott.
The North Face
The North Face will pause advertising on Facebook, but the brand says it will continue to post “organic content” on Instagram, as CNN reports. The company’s Facebook likes have been rising as mentions ebb and flow. Meanwhile, its Twitter following got a small boost this month.
JanSport and Vans, which are also owned by VF Corp, have joined the boycott as well. It will likely be the one of many VF Corp brands to follow suit. VF Corp spent $756 million on advertising for the year that ended March 31, so these brands can afford to lose a little social media engagement.
Starbucks ($SBUX) announced it will pause "all social media" advertising. In 2019, the coffeehouse chain was the sixth-largest advertiser on Facebook, spending an estimated $94.8 million on advertising. "We believe in bringing communities together, both in person and online, and we stand against hate speech," the company said in the statement.
For a company that spent almost $100 million on Facebook, you’d think there’d be more buzz. Likes have been plummeting since last year, but Facebook mentions started to spike once Starbucks announced its boycott last week.
If the boycott is successful, Facebook will follow Reddit and YouTube in cracking down on hate speech. Last June, YouTube issued rules prohibiting “videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.” Yesterday, the company banned a group of viral white supremacist channels. Twitch temporarily suspended President Donald Trump's channel, while Reddit banned a Trump supporter forum for its hate content.
Regardless of whether the boycott fails and Facebook continues to allow hate speech and swallow major companies’ ad money, the brands that participate will benefit. They’ll return to social media in a more favorable, woke light. They’ll continue to advertise, but to the tune of “progress.”
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.