Facebook spend cut by a third even before boycott bites

facebook boycott_2Those who claimed the social media advertising boycott would make little difference might have to eat their own words after official figures reveal Facebook spend was slashed by nearly a third (31.6%) in the US in the final two weeks of Q2 – even before the Stop Hate for Profit campaign launched.

The boycott, launched by Free Press and Common Sense Media, along with US civil rights groups Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League following the death of George Floyd in the US, is designed to force Facebook to address hate speech and divisiveness on its platform.

However, it has divided opinion. Sir Martin Sorrell, who is seen by many as the industry mouthpiece, reckons it is not the solution. Even Unilever’s global marketing boss, Aline Santos, agrees with him, despite the company pulling all social media ads until the new year; a move she said was more to do with the “toxic environment” during the US Presidential election.

Meanwhile, the list of brands pulling social media ads continues to grow, and now comprises 435 companies, including McDonald’s, Volkswagen, Sony, Starbucks, Adidas, Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Merck, Ford, Target, HP, Levi Strauss, Beiersdorf and Diageo. However, not all have joined the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.

According to Socialbakers’ Social Media Trends for Q2 2020 report, the first action, #BlackoutTuesday, launched in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, led to a dip in early June, while the Stop Hate for Profit campaign triggered a decline in late June.

At the time, Common Sense Media chief executive Jim Steyer said that “the next frontier is global pressure”, adding the campaign also hopes to embolden regulators in Europe to take a harder stance on Facebook.

Facebook’s third quarter results, which will not be released until late October, will tell the full story of the boycott’s impact, but as of last week, brands shared 72.05% fewer new ads on Facebook and Instagram compared with this time last year, according to social analytics company ListenFirst.

Even so, Socialbakers’ figures do reveal that globally there was a return to near pre-Covid-19 levels for advertising budgets and cost-per-click (CPC) for paid ads in Q2 across all social media platforms.

One significant development has been an increase in the use of organic video content, which it is claimed offers marketers a high engagement rate with an audience that is working remotely or otherwise locked down at home during the pandemic.

Around the world, social media ad spend increased significantly in Q2 2020, compared to Q1, with every industry analysed by Socialbakers showing an increase in spend over the three-month period.

Across all brand accounts, CPC rose by 42.7% in Q2 to $0.107 yet, in the main feeds at least, CPC still shows a decline year over year, meaning the opportunity still exists for brands that have the budget to make their message reach a wider audience than they normally would.

Socialbakers chief executive Yuval Ben-Itzhak said: “Q2 was a dynamic quarter from a marketing perspective. We saw paid advertising bounce back and CPC increase as businesses started to return to normal across most regions and industries. We saw a dip in ad spend in early June, most notably in the US, which corresponds to #BlackoutTuesday. There was another dip in ad spend at the end of June, which was likely related to the ad boycotts that could also affect figures in Q3 2020.”

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