Should you participate in the Facebook Ads boycott?

/ by Karen Amundson

More than 100 advertisers and multiple civil rights groups are calling for a July 2020 boycott of Facebook Ads. Their goal is to push for changes to be implemented to the platform, under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit. 

Many marketers feel strongly about the cause and want to participate. But, it’s not always easy to get buy-in from key stakeholders. Whatever your views, the following are important business considerations for brands. 

Large advertisers

Many brands are highly dependent on Facebook Ads, hence the leverage Facebook has—and why a boycott is necessary to affect change. Deciding to participate in a boycott could mean a significant hit in revenue in the short term. But, it can also be an investment—not only in asking Facebook to make changes to reduce hate speech, but an investment in customer loyalty. 

Further, this is an opportunity to test a more diversified portfolio of marketing tactics, which will potentially uncover growth opportunities and leave your business less exposed to the whims of Facebook in the long-run. As a side benefit, your team might appreciate getting to learn and try new marketing tactics. For inspiration on a July media plan without Facebook Ads, check out Apiary’s article on Search Engine Land.

A 2017 boycott of YouTube ads quickly yielded platform changes, and sent a strong message to Google to be receptive to feedback from top advertisers. The hope is a similar result will be accomplished with this July Facebook Ads boycott.

Small brands

It may be challenging for small businesses to participate in the boycott because for some, a huge percentage of revenue comes from Facebook Ads and pausing small ad budgets may not be enough to make a strong statement. One small business owner had this to say: 

“I am frustrated with the way Facebook operates and I want to support racial equality initiatives. But if I shut off Facebook Ads, I’d lose 80% of my revenue. My business is struggling to adapt from COVID, and I can’t afford to take another hit if I want to keep making payroll and avoid layoffs.” 

If this describes your scenario, make a decision based on your company values, and the values of customers and employees.

Outdoor brands 

There’s enough traction among outdoor brands that customers may be turned off seeing ads from outdoor brands that continue advertising on Facebook in July. Continuing to advertise could make your brand look insensitive and put a dent in customer loyalty.

All brands

This is a rapidly evolving issue. We recommend all advertisers follow the news and if a critical mass of boycott participants form within their industry, consider either pulling out of Facebook Ads for the month of July, pulling back, or monitoring customer sentiment very closely. 

For those who do decide to continue advertising in July, regardless of size or industry, review messaging, take additional measures for comment moderation, and relay to customers through other means how you’re contributing to racial equality.

If this isn’t a cause that is genuinely meaningful to your business and customers, announcing participation in the boycott may backfire. If your company doesn’t have a history of supporting people of color throughout the organization, a diverse board of directors, an inclusive hiring practice, or plans to do so, activists may short-circuit well-intentioned efforts. 

Supporting the cause with or without Facebook Ads

Regardless of your plans with Facebook Ads in July, you can support equality within social media, advertising, and technology. It’s hard to go down paths of discrimination with a diverse group of decision-makers at the table. That’s why Apiary is volunteering with, and matching donations to COOP Careers as an investment in diversity within advertising. Learn more.