Our agency places ads across a multitude of digital and traditional advertising platforms. For quite some time, we’ve been aware of Facebook’s failing report card in regards to the perpetuation of hate speech and harassment. In recent months, this situation has taken on a new sense of urgency and forced us to reckon with the call to action sounded by the #StopHateForProfit boycott. Considering how quickly the news cycle moves these days we realize some readers may find this topic already a bit out of date. However we’re prepared to sacrifice timeliness in order to demonstrate what we perceive to be our responsibilities as both media buyers and concerned citizens.
What is #StopHateForProfit?
The mission behind #StopHateForProfit is to drive Facebook and its subsidiaries to monitor and reduce the presence of unfettered hate speech, violent content and political misinformation currently visible to 1.62 billion users from around the world visiting these channels every day.
Human rights organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP and others fear that failing to stop the flow of disinformation on Facebook threatens our health, personal safety, livelihoods, and may even disproportionately affect the outcome of the upcoming presidential election in November. A recent security breach on Twitter affecting dozens of high profile verified accounts is yet another wake up call that speaks to the urgency of this matter across all social media channels.
Admittedly, we are living in a perilous and polarized world where words matter more than ever. Information overload and the mental fatigue that comes from overexposure to a continued stream of complex and unsettling content is detrimental to all of us. We’re battling a firestorm fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, scenes of police brutality, spreading economic insecurity and numerous political scandals which have rocked the foundation of our national security as well as our personal lives. There are days when I’d like to crawl back under the covers instead of facing the news reports and I’m sure I’m not alone!
Even though Facebook has been challenged for its complacency around hate speech and online harassment in the past, the social media giant has yet to actively filter hateful content from its platform. A letter written by the Anti Defamation League and published on the Stop Hate for Profit website contains survey data showing that 44% of Facebook users have reported experiencing harassment on the platform. One wonders whether this time will be different? Watching the list of businesses participating in the boycott grow – North Face, Ben & Jerry’s, Verizon, Unilever, Walgreens, brings me hope.
Leading the way
So, what responsibilities do advertising agencies like ours hold within such a fractious climate? Do we alter our campaigns or do we stay the course? How do we reconcile our company values around social responsibility with the behavior evident on the platforms where we place ads? How do we assert our moral compass while remaining relevant and engaged with our clients, partners and peers?
Seeking answers to these and other questions my team, led by our intrepid marketing operations manager Brenda Brooks, jumped in and together we began getting better informed on the origins and goals of the movement. Girded by this knowledge, I crafted a letter to let our clients know I was aware of what was happening inside our industry, and that I was ready to explain the purpose of the boycott and to give them a chance to eliminate Facebook from their media campaigns, even for just one month. I prepared tactical alternatives to keep their ad campaigns moving forward during such a hiatus.
Read an Excerpt from our Letter:
To our valued clients:
The purpose of this letter is to share our perspective on the #StopHateForProfit boycott against Facebook and Instagram. No doubt you have seen the news about a growing body of companies which have decided to halt their advertising spend on Facebook during the month of July 2020 and beyond. Many of the brands joining the #StopHateForProfit campaign are familiar household names such as North Face, Verizon, Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s just to name a few. The full list of companies (as of this writing) can be seen in this article.
Unfortunately, hate speech on social media platforms is not a new problem. Social justice organizations like the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League have actively advocated for advertisers to consider pulling their ad budgets from Facebook and Instagram for quite some time.
Here at Richardson Media Group, currently, a portion of nearly every digital media campaign we manage includes investments in Facebook and Instagram.
While our spend is relatively modest compared to the huge brands that have jumped into the boycott, we feel it would be negligent to step around this issue simply because our footprint is small…
The act of broaching this topic with our clients has deepened our relationships, opened up new channels of communication, confirmed our commitment to transparency and demonstrated the power of being a trusted advisor.
Realistically, the #StopHateForProfit movement may never notice our agency’s contributions, but I’m okay with that. The point here is to challenge the status quo, even if we only do it one Facebook impression at a time.
I’m grateful for my team’s willingness to take on this effort and for the energy they’ve brought to our conversations. We’ll continue to advise our clients and agency partners about how to advertise safely and keep our finger on the pulse of these kinds of important issues as we move forward together towards an uncertain future.