SOCIAL NETWORKS know a thing or two about virality. Still, Facebook was probably surprised by the speed at which a small protest, begun on June 17th by a collection of American civil-rights groups, has gained steam. By July 1st the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which accuses it of publishing material that incites violence, helped persuade more than 600 firms, including giants like Pfizer, Starbucks and Unilever, to pull ads from the platform.
Why the exodus? Principle is presumably part of it. So is peer pressure, which is rising as the list of boycotters lengthens. Admittedly, it is a particularly convenient time to make a stand, as firms pare back ad dollars amid the coronavirus recession. Starbucks, for instance, has spent $11m on Facebook ads in America since March, when lockdowns began. During the same period in 2019 it spent $29m, according to Pathmatics, a data company.
If ad dollars move elsewhere, possible beneficiaries include smaller rivals like Snapchat, Pinterest and TikTok, as well as YouTube, owned by Google. Some advertisers may even go back to quaint things like newspapers and TV, believes Andrew Lipsman of eMarketer, a research firm.
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