Why Major Food Brands Are Boycotting Facebook Ads
Big names from Starbucks to Hershey are part of a multi-billion-dollar movement targeting the social media company.
Last week, support started to grow for a proposed Facebook ad boycott organized by a number of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, Color of Change, and the Anti-Defamation League. The groups took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times, calling out Facebook for using billions of dollars' worth of advertising revenue to promote "hate bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence" on its website.
allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others," the ad read. "They amplified white nationalists by including news sources with known extremist ties in their 'fact checking' program. They turned a blind eye to blatant voter suppression on their platform."
The Stop Hate For Profit campaign, as it's called, encourages brands to express their displeasure with Facebook's policies by temporarily suspending their ad spending on both Facebook and Instagram for the month of July, "in order to force Mark Zuckerberg to address the effect that Facebook has had on our society."
One of the first major brands to support the boycott was The North Face, who also said that it wasn't waiting until July 1 to pull its ads from the social media platform. "We’re in. We’re Out," it tweeted last week, adding the hashtag #StopHateForProfit. The North Face has since been joined by dozens and dozens of immediately recognizable names, like Adidas, Honda, Levi's, lululemon, Patagonia, and Verizon.
As of this writing, the food and beverage brands that have temporarily paused their advertising campaigns include Beam Suntory, Ben & Jerry's, Blue Bottle Coffee, Chobani, Clif Bar, Coca-Cola, Denny's, Diageo, The Hershey Company, and Yes Plz Coffee. In addition, the Las Vegas Food & Wine Festival has pulled its own ads, as has Modern Farmer and the Read Between the Wines podcast. Conagra (which produces Chef Boyardee, Duncan-Hines, and Slim-Jim, among others) and Unilever (Hellmann's, Breyers, Talenti) have also suspended their social media ads.
Although Starbucks hasn't officially pledged its support to #StopHateforProfit, it released a statement on Sunday announcing that it would be temporarily pulling its ads from social media. "We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change," it wrote. "We will pause advertising on all social media platforms while we continue discussions internally, with our media partners and with civil rights organizations in the effort to stop the spread of hate speech." (According to CNN, Starbucks was the sixth-largest advertiser on Facebook last year, spending an eye-popping$94.8 million to put pictures of its Frappuccinos in the sidebars in 2019.)
But some analysts have suggested that this boycott won't do anything except give these brands some good PR while being a mostly performative way of pretending to, you know, do something. In order to make it truly effective—and to enact real change—it will need to last longer than a single calendar page, and should also require Facebook to meet a list of conditions, going forward. (Stop Hate For Profit has a list of recommended next steps on its website but participating brands may also want to start listing their own ideas of what "decency" and "accountability" looks like to them.) Facebook also has an estimated eight million advertisers, so the list of participating brands is going to need to get a lot longer, too.
"We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our policies,” a Facebook spokesperson said on Monday. "We know we have more work to do.”