The recent advertising boycott of Facebook and Instagram over the platforms’ role in proliferating hate speech has gotten hundreds of brands and advertisers on board, but hundreds of others have started spending even more on the platforms.
Some major companies in different sectors, including retail, media and tech, that were already big spenders in advertising with Facebook (which owns and directly operates Instagram) appear to have doubled down on the platform since the Stop Hate for Profit boycott launched in June. These companies include Nordstrom, Gap, Hearst Magazines (which recently forced out its president) and L’Oréal, among many others, as can be seen in a more complete list below.
Organizers of the boycott, including the NAACP, Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, started it urging all advertisers to eliminate ad spend on Facebook for the month of July, due to the company’s refusal to take major action in combating racialized hate speech on its platforms, most notably that by President Trump. The campaign quickly gained momentum among companies, many of which were looking for ways to show some level of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which was reignited after the police killing of George Floyd, which followed several other killings, by police and regular citizens, of unarmed Black people in the U.S. And the campaign forced Facebook to do some damage control.
“Many companies, frustrated by Facebook’s unwillingness to address their concerns, have already said they are not ready to return to Facebook’s platforms,” the leaders wrote. “We see this movement growing in Europe and other areas. And we have explicit commitments from many advertisers to participate in future pauses and new actions if Facebook continues to ignore their demands for change.”
Facebook’s founder, chairman and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg seems generally nonplussed by the boycott. Asked during Wednesday’s Congressional hearing on antitrust issues in big tech if Facebook is “so big you don’t care how you’re impacted by a boycott,” referring to its dominance in digital advertising, Zuckerberg’s response was not particularly impassioned.
“Of course we care, but we’re not going to set our content policy based on advertisers,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”
It’s likely that the boycott simply hasn’t reached a level where it matters much to Facebook, which makes nearly all of its annual revenue from advertising spend by more than 8 million active advertisers. And according to the company’s second-quarter results released Thursday, revenue from advertising increased 10 percent year-over-year, to $18.3 billion. Daily active users also grew by 12 percent to 1.79 billion people.
The results were for the second quarter ended June 30, so just before the boycott began, but many of Facebook’s big advertisers have actually increased spend in July, according to data from Pathmatics. It found more than 300 sizable advertisers have done so by 20 percent or more in July, most by much more than that. Meanwhile, it only found around 150 advertisers have dropped spend significantly in the same month.
Some notable companies that have increased spend, based on average daily amounts, on Facebook include:
Home Depot, up by 195 percent; AT&T, up by 150 percent; DoorDash, up by 216 percent; Lyft, up by 528 percent; Sprint, up by 78 percent; Gap, up by 158 percent; J.C. Penney, up by 272 percent; StitchFix, up by 155 percent; Hearst Magazines, up by 120 percent; QVC, up by 234 percent; Luxottica, up by 527 percent; The Wall Street Journal, up by 27 percent; Postmates, up by 74 percent; L Brands (owner of Victoria’s Secret), up by 164 percent; Kate Spade, up by 448 percent; Nordstrom, up by 58 percent; Time Inc., up by 281 percent; Macy’s, up by 175 percent; Shein Group, up by 66 percent; The Economist, up by 79 percent; Under Armour, up by 284 percent; L’Oréal, up by 40 percent; Quibi, up by 203 percent; Rite Aid, up by 98 percent; Alibaba, up by 89 percent; Ipsy, up by 72 percent; Marvel Entertainment (owned by Disney), up by 91 percent; J. Crew, up by 70 percent; Coach, up by 35 percent; Meredith Corp., up by 35 percent.
The daily spend by these companies is a wide range, from around $470,000 down to about $10,000, but most of the companies fall roughly between $30,000 and $100,000 a day. Such spend by these companies alone accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for Facebook each day.
Still, hundreds of companies have publicly said they are participating in the boycott and not spending on Facebook platforms, at least through July, according to a running list maintained by the boycott leaders.
But according to Pathmataics, only about 100 companies that have stopped spending were spending more than $10,000 a day on average on the platform before joining the boycott. Those under that average spend include some of the first major brands to join the campaign — like Patagonia and REI. Best Buy, Lululemon, Levi’s and Reebok also spent relatively little per day on Facebook advertising before joining the boycott.
Bigger spenders to have essentially stopped spending on Facebook for the month include Starbucks; Wells Fargo; Walmart; Target; Pfizer; Proactive; Condé Nast; Hulu; JP Morgan Chase; Netflix; Unilever; LinkedIn; McDonald’s; Dell; CVS; Verizon; SmartNews; Kohl’s; Nike; SoundCloud; Ralph Lauren; Salesforce; Ulta; Adidas; Dollar General; Bloomberg, and Walgreens, among others.
Certain of these companies stopped spending without publicly saying so, like Bloomberg, Dollar General, Condé Nast, Ulta, Walmart, Netflix, McDonald’s, Hulu and JP Morgan. It could be that ad spend by these companies has been the result of tightening ad budgets amid the coronavirus pandemic, or it could be that they didn’t want to make a public show of aligning themselves with a social justice cause.
Nevertheless, they’ve stopped spending, even if it doesn’t amount to enough of a loss for Facebook to change its ways.
Based on the 153 companies Pathmatics found in July that stopped spending on Facebook (and were actually spending some amount before), the platform has lost an average of $4.5 million a day. Over the course of July, that amounts to roughly $140 million, which is a lot of money, but amounts to just 0.2 percent of Facebook’s $70 billion in annual revenue last year.