Life Tech Aussie companies tipped to join Facebook boycott
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Aussie companies tipped to join Facebook boycott

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Australian companies will follow the global Facebook advertising boycott, an expert says, with two major telcos confirming they’re “closely monitoring” the situation.

More than 160 companies have paused or pulled their advertising from the social media platform in a movement spurred on by the Black Lives Matter cause.

Although it’s mostly in the US, this week there were calls to push the Stop Hate for Profit campaign global.

European companies have been rallied this week, and Australian companies won’t be far behind, brand health expert and senior marketing lecturer Abas Mirzaei said.

Both Telstra and Optus have indicated to The New Daily they’re keeping close tabs on Facebook’s response to the situation.

In the US, one of the biggest advertisers to have pulled its monetary support is telco Verizon.

Telstra and Optus said they’re “actively” monitoring or communicating with the platform, but have not yet made any moves to suspend or withdraw advertising.

Over the weekend – after Facebook’s value dropped some 8 per cent – founder Mark Zuckerberg announced updates to the company’s advertising standards, to further crack down on content that contains “hate speech”.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed these standards applied globally, including Australia.

Woke, smoke and mirrors

Dr Mirzaei, from Macquarie University, is an expert in the field of ‘woke’ marketing, where brands leverage a social justice issue as part of their advertising profile.

He said in situations like this – Stop Hate for Profit – what’s needed is a healthy dose of perspective from the consumer.

Dr Mirzaei pointed to companies in the US, where their advertising on Facebook could total $20 million.

“So you are pausing advertising, but are they prepared to spend or invest that ($20 million) somewhere else?” he said.

“If you look at Coca-Cola, in response to COVID-19, they announced they will dedicate their social media presence to promoting NPOs.”

This week, Coca-Cola announced it will pause its Facebook advertising for a month.

Dr Mirzaei said moves like this could show consumers just where brand’s loyalties lay – were they more interested in keeping in step with consumer or public sentiment, or showing a genuine value?

Patagonia, he said, was on brand showing authenticity with its responses. It has always been a company to throw its finances (or financial stakes) behind social causes it values.

While some brands might jump on any bandwagons that give them good public favour (and in this case, save them advertising dollars) sometimes, we can forgive them for the greater good, Dr Mirzaei said.

“… If the outcome is positive (like raising awareness for a social issue) we can be somewhat easier on these brands,” he conceded.

TND also contacted several other Australian companies that are prominent Facebook advertisers, but did not receive comment by deadline.

Inside the campaign

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign begun after the death of George Floyd, and is orchestrated by US organisations Free Press and Common Sense, Colour of Change, Anti-Defamation League and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

It’s calling on Facebook to take a heavier hand against hateful content that it publishes (through not removing posts by third parties) on its platforms.

The group says Facebook has permitted posts that encourage violence against Black Lives Matter protesters, not pulling down Holocaust denial content, and branding an infamous right-wing website as a “trusted news source”.

Through targeting its bottom line – through advertisers – the campaign hopes Facebook will overhaul its policies and pay closer attention to content that could be harmful to the community, individuals, and societal progress.