Why are companies such as Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Unilever boycotting Facebook?

Brands worldwide spend a huge chunk of their digital marketing budget on platforms such as Facebook and Google. Following the recent protests in the US, many have accused Facebook of allowing incitement of violence on their platform and did little to curb misinformation especially from politicians. It was reported that 99% of Facebook’s USD 70 billion revenue came from advertising and a new movement was formed to put pressure on the social network which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp.

In order to get Facebook, which is the world’s largest social network with over 2.5 billion monthly active users to take action, a “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign was launched earlier this month. The mission? To get Facebook to be more accountable and to act on hate and disinformation by rallying companies to pause their advertising campaigns. By hitting them where it hurts, the campaign hopes that co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will take the matter seriously.

At the moment, it was reported that over 160 brands have joined the advertising boycott and this includes large corporations in the US such as Unilever, Coca-Cola, Honda, Adidas, Colgate-Palmolive, Microsoft and Starbucks. Unilever which is a huge FMCG company that owns over 400 brands such as Dove, Knorr, Lipton, Magnum, Rexona and Sunsilk has committed to pausing US spending on Facebook ads for the rest of the year. However, this only accounts for 10% of its overall USD 250 million spend annually. Apart from Facebook ads, Unilever is also stopping its ad campaigns on Twitter until the end of the year.

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More brands are expected to jump on the bandwagon. Procter & Gamble is still considering to pull out its ads from Facebook if it decides that social media doesn’t meet its standards of avoiding content that is “hateful, discriminatory or denigrating”. It is also reported that PepsiCo will also stop advertising on Facebook as well as the FOX Business Network. Out of Facebook’s total revenue, it is reported that a quarter came from big companies while the remaining revenue comes from small businesses.

The impact is definitely felt by Zuckerberg as Facebook stocks on Friday had declined by 8.3% which wiped out USD 56 billion in market capitalisation. This prompted Facebook to issue a response that it will introduce new measures to ban ads and to label hate speech from politicians. However, that didn’t stop more brands to join the boycott and the campaign is also calling for large European companies to join in.

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Alexander Wong