After Monthlong Boycott, Which Brands Are Coming Back to Facebook?

Stop Hate for Profit got a lot of support, including from Coca-Cola, Unilever and The North Face

Brands are deciding whether they want to return to advertising on Facebook's channels. Photo Illustration: Trent Joaquin; Sources: Getty Images, Facebook

As the monthlong Stop Hate for Profit campaign calling on advertisers to boycott Facebook comes to an end today, many brands are still deciding whether to return their ad spend to the social network’s platforms.

Some major brands that made a show of withdrawing their digital ad spends, including Chipotle, are extending their commitment to forgo advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Others, such as The North Face, are slowly returning to the platforms.

The actions Facebook has taken to meet brands’ demands to clean up hate speech and misinformation have left many cautiously optimistic, said Joshua Lowcock, chief digital officer for UM and global brand safety officer for Mediabrands.

“There’s definitely been a different level of engagement on these key issues and a different level of public engagement,” Lowcock said. “The thing about all of this is that it’s important for advertisers to have a diversified media investment.”

Outdoor recreation company The North Face—the first major brand to join Stop Hate for Profit on June 25—plans to resume its Facebook and Instagram ad spends in August, referencing “constructive conversations with Facebook.”

“We are encouraged by the initial progress, and recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight,” the brand said in a statement.

Additional brands under VF Corporation, parent company of The North Face as well as Vans, JanSport, Dickies and Timberland, will “continually evaluate [Facebook’s] progress and determine on an ongoing basis if they are a partner and platform that upholds our values.”

Some companies opted for an even broader, blanket ban on advertising on social media in July. Coca-Cola will return to advertising on YouTube and LinkedIn tomorrow, but refrain from advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In a statement today, Coca-Cola committed to a new internal policy against hateful activities, adding assessment of platforms and continued conversations with stakeholders. 

“While we’ve made progress, our journey is not complete. At this time, as we continue to assess each platform, we can confirm that our reentry to social media will be a phased approach by channel,” the beverage company said.

Liberal advocacy groups started calling for a boycott in June, after which civil rights groups including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League organized the formal effort to encourage Facebook to clean up hateful activity.

The groups had growing concerns over Facebook’s policies, particularly after the platform declined to remove a post by President Donald Trump that said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to Black Lives Matter protests.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign attracted dozens of prominent brands that pledged to cease Facebook and Instagram ad spending in July. Some brands, such as Unilever, expanded their boycott to include Twitter and have pulled their spending through the end of 2020.

As the boycott continued, companies wondered when to return to the platform and questioned Facebook’s commitment to change. Under growing pressure, the platform agreed to undergo a brand safety audit from the Media Rating Council. In a call with investors Thursday, Facebook acknowledged that the boycott could affect earnings next quarter.

Facebook has previously pointed to the billions of dollars it has spent to keep hate off its platform, noting a ban of 250 white supremacist organizations, consistent transparency reports on content moderation and initiatives to boost voter turnout. The platform also outlined steps it’s taking after the findings of a civil rights audit were released this month. 

“I am deeply grateful to the marketing industry and my peers for recognizing that racism is a shared problem that demands a shared response,” said Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, in a lengthy public post on Thursday, noting its commitment to working with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media. The company also outlined additional steps it would take, per the boycott’s recommendations.

Ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s will continue its moratorium on product advertising through the end of 2020. Instead, the company will run ads for its activism campaigns, which focus on the 2020 election, racial justice and voting rights.

“This election is just too important,” a Ben & Jerry’s spokesperson said. “This work is too important to ‘unilaterally disarm’ across these platforms that remain powerful channels to engage citizens on these critically important issues.”

Sara Jerde contributed to this report.

Rachel Winicov is a freelance writer for Adweek focusing on digital media, ad tech and social media.