by John Harrison (Group Strategy Director) & Aarohi Dhir (Senior Strategist)

It seems pretty clear to us that the current boycott of social media platforms makes sense on every level:

  • Responsibly – The Advertising Standards Code states that “All marketing communications should be legal, decent, honest and truthful and should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society and should reflect the spirit, not merely the letter, of the Code.” So on that basis, if the context our comms appear in isn’t legal, decent, honest and truthful, then our advertising shouldn’t be appearing there. 
  • Ethically – Talk is cheap. It’s relatively easy for brands to bandwagon on movements. But it’s action, not words that sets leading brands apart. The brands that have genuinely made a difference through their acts during Covid will be remembered long after the brands who did a spatially distanced version of their logo. This is backed up by the Edelman Trust Barometer from April 2020, which shows 60% of people globally agree they “are switching to brands they can absolutely trust”.
  • Financially – Studies have shown that online advertising really isn’t very effective. The Profit Ability report (Ebiquity, Gain Theory and Thinkbox) concludes that online video and display combined deliver just 7% of all short-term profit – compared to 62% for TV. The boycott therefore allows brands to make a strong ethical statement whilst reducing significant spend (Unilever has spent $11.8 million in the U.S. this year on Facebook alone) in a channel that isn’t very effective anyway.
  • Morally – Facebook makes a phenomenal amount of money – money that its shareholders now expect. There are now more than 750 brands that have joined the boycott. It is this financial punishment that will genuinely force change. Just as it wasn’t the shame of being caught hacking a dead schoolgirl’s phone that forced the News of the World to close – it was advertisers withdrawing their money.

Of course, the fact that people will staunchly defend such an absolute and definitive point of view is one reason why social media platforms become a breeding ground for intolerance. So if you’d like a more nuanced point of view, you may want to read why it’s pretty clear to us that the current boycott of social media platforms makes absolutely no sense on any level.

Why the Social Media Boycott is a Dreadful Idea