Facebook and the advertising boycott
Over the past few weeks, we have seen (especially In the U.S.) increasing pressure on Facebook (and Instagram) to the point that advertisers — and some very Important ones — are deciding to withdraw their advertising Investments in the Web giant. The origin of the boycott? The moderation of content, said to be too lax, of misinformation (also called fake news) and of hate speech. As of July 3, Facebook had announced It would be tightening censorship measures, notably regarding political content and messaging from the extreme right.
Although the U.S. figures prominently, the movement rapidly spread to other markets, such as Canada, several large organisations, like Lululemon, Arc’teryx, MEC, Scotiabank, RBC, CIBC, BMO, TD and even the government of Québec have recently confirmed that they have ceased any advertising investment In the American social network.
Since every enterprise Is subject to its own situation, and thus no single solution exists, we’re proposing a couple of points worthy of reflection that might help local enterprises (and those elsewhere as well) consider the issue and to take more enlightened decisions about withdrawing advertising from Facebook.
1. A large cause that brings brands together
The first element to consider Is how seriously we are attached to the cause. The question we must ask ourselves is: “Do we want to support this cause and encourage the establishment of a media ecosystem that is more rigorous, fair and respectful?”
This question remains completely subjective, and the answer to it depends on the nature of the enterprise and its leadership, as well as how sensitive it Is to the subject. This said, we most avoid minimizing the importance of smaller enterprises withdrawing their advertising. A report from Pathmatics, a company specializing in Web audits, revealed at the beginning of the week that most of the 100 biggest advertisers on Facebook had not yet withdrawn their advertising Investments. The collective weight of all second-tier enterprises in terms of their advertising Investments takes on even greater importance, because we have to act together in large numbers to balance the scales.
2. The evaluation of Facebook in the media mix
Next, it is critical to estimate the contribution of the channel Itself to the media mix of an enterprise. We have to understand that Facebook tends to perform well on certain KPI, but not as well on others, notably regarding awareness (depending on the campaign and the creative). In general, what creates added value for a channel such as Facebook is the frequency of utilisation of the media (the user connects with it several times a day) and the richness of the content it possesses to Improve its delivery algorithms and the building of audiences. So this type of channel often becomes very pertinent for retargeting strategies and for the achievement of conversion objectives, for example.
Thus, it will be important to look at a multi-channel attribution model that will allow us to evaluate to what point Facebook and Instagram are critical channels. In this regard, completely stopping advertising on Facebook could become an excellent A/B test to discover Its real Impact on the activities of an enterprise.
To sum up, each enterprise is unique, and its involvement in the cause will depend upon its activities and objectives: to evaluate the anticipated effects of a withdrawal of advertising our Web media and cybermetrics team could help develop a prognosis.
3. Reframe the decision in light of the current situation
Finally, it becomes very difficult to look into this kind of decision without mentioning the implications of the situation we are currently living through. On one hand, the health and economic crises linked to the pandemic often force us to plan our activities based on the most pessimistic of scenarios. It would be unrealistic to say that withdrawing from Facebook would have no effect on our activities, and many would not want to risk a loss of efficiency, and that’s perfectly normal. Virtue often comes with a cost, and we have to be sure that we’re ready to bear the consequences.
On the other hand, the feeble curation of content posted on Facebook is not the only factor that could lead an organization to withdraw its advertising from Facebook: support for our local media ecosystem Is one that could — and should — carry greater weight in decision-making. Over the past several years, we have observed a slow deterioration on the media scene in Québec and Canada, while advertising investments are being slowly transferred to the giants of GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft). In fact, the COVID-19 crisis has refocused attention on local platforms, a trend that would be interesting to maintain and nourish over the coming years.
To sum up, the Facebook boycott leads to many serious considerations we must reflect upon: what is the impact of centralizing advertising on a small number of media? Should we withdraw advertising from foreign media? Do we want to take a position at the heart of an Ideological debate on content curation, free speech and fake news? The answer Isn’t that simple, divided between the profitability of the status quo and the unknown consequences of a major change in investments. One thing is certain: it’s a great time to review our working practices in order to lessen our dependence on a few major players.