I Canceled Facebook Advertising and You Should, Too

In hopes other marketing leaders will join

We will not be moving forward with plans to advertise with Facebook. For context, we deactivated our corporate Facebook account last year, and we were looking to reactivate it specifically for the purpose of a retargeting campaign.

Recent events have weighed heavily on us all, spurring us to think about how we can do more. How we can do better. I started to think about the impact I could have both as an individual and as a marketing executive. As an individual, I can speak with my money. As a manager, I can speak out as an ally to support those on my team. As a CMO, I can speak with my marketing budget. I took the action to cancel our upcoming Facebook ad campaign. This was my way of pulling a lever that I could pull—and I am very grateful to have the support of the executive leadership team in making this stand.

At Facebook, employees can’t really count on similar support. Their leadership has chosen to look the other way, supposedly in the name of free speech, as highly visible and incendiary statements are amplified on their platform.

It’s incumbent on each of us to consider the human impact of the decisions we make every day.

It’s funny when a media company publishes something, it’s held to account for the veracity and civility of the content, and for printing retractions when they get things wrong. On Facebook, arguably the world’s largest publishing platform, there is no similar requirement. CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes it’s not the company’s responsibility to be “an arbiter of truth.” The fact of the matter, though, is that’s what he’s doing, protected by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

It’s certainly interesting that platforms like Snapchat and Twitter have found ways to at least partially address these challenges. We marketers have our own power to bring to bear. As the old saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

In our digitally mediated world, it’s gotten too easy to separate the pipes that lead to consumers from the content that surrounds and supports them. Sure, we all want to capitalize on the most efficient and effective tools to get our messages to the right people at the right time. Beyond the CPL, though, what’s the true cost? Is it really worth it to shave a couple pennies off acquisition if the price is someone’s dignity, mental health or safety? There’s got to be a better way.

I recognize that my own corner of the technology industry has a ways to go before we’re where we want to be with regard to diversity and inclusion. Actions like a Facebook ad boycott aren’t meaningful unless they’re paired with concrete work at home. We have work to do. We can do more. It was important for us to join the conversation but also to realize where we are falling short. During these recent events, we stood with the Black community, acknowledging that systemic racism still exists. We stopped all North America advertising and quieted our own social media accounts while supporting #blackoutTuesday so that more important voices could be heard on these critical issues.

The budget that would have gone to the Facebook test campaign over the next two quarters will be reallocated to a corporate donation to organizations that are taking action for positive change. We are working through plans and identifying the organizations that are the best fit. We continue to build our diversity and inclusion efforts that span recruiting at all levels, education and programs of outreach to the community.

Let me be clear: This is not about calling out or judging marketers at the brands whose businesses depend on Facebook advertising. I recognize that my decision was low risk, since in the b-to-b SaaS world we can take or leave Facebook without much impact on our business.

I hope other marketing leaders join me, but I recognize that this decision may not be as straightforward for many of them. And I’m not under the illusion that withholding this small campaign (under six figures) is, by itself, going to create change. Nonetheless, I believe it’s incumbent on each of us to consider the human impact of the decisions we make every day.

I hope that my colleagues will understand in a new way that they can count on us to pay attention and to do something when we see the perpetration or facilitation of divisive, hateful or hurtful actions.

We will do better. We have to. As a C-suite leader, I don’t see my Facebook stand as one and done, but as one of many more principled choices that I can make on behalf of my team, my colleagues, our company, our industry and our communities small and large. It’s my hope that everyone will reconsider the difference they can make and that, together, we can be the change that we want to see in the world.