Sorrell: Boycott Not “The Right Way To Deal With Facebook”

Sorrell: Boycott Not “The Right Way To Deal With Facebook”
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Sir Martin Sorrell – like he does with so many things – has weighed in to the recent brand boycott of Facebook, saying the protest ultimately had little impact and brands would’ve been better served voicing their concerns privately.

Back in July, over a 1000 companies stopped advertising on the platform in the hope of pressuring Facebook management to take more strident steps in combating hate speech and disinformation that many believed it turned a blind eye to.

A campaign called “#StopHateForProfit” saw major spenders such as HP, Verizon, Coca-Cola, Diageo and Ben & Jerry’s all boycott the platform.

Sorrell – who now runs the very heavily digitally-skewed S4 – said brands that had concerns would have been better to air their grievances privately.

That said, S4 has a lot to gain when clients advertise on digital platforms.

The 75-year-old Sorrell telling CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe program the boycott “wasn’t the right way to deal with Facebook”.

“We haven’t seen that much of a slow down on Facebook,” Sorrell declared. “Obviously the so-called boycott had a little impact, but much less than people forecast.”

“You don’t confront them in public,” he added. “What you do is try and lobby privately for changes and I think they’ve made changes. They have 35,000 people monitoring editorial content. They take down some of the extreme groups, they’ve altered the nature of the algorithm.”

Facebook conceded at the time that the boycotts had impacted second-quarter earnings, but anticipated ad revenue would continue to grow in the third quarter.

The news follows a new UK report that found many marketers believe the US tech giants pose one of the “biggest threats” to the long term health of the advertising industry

The report, called The New Internet, was published by data connectivity platform LiveRamp and came from the responses given by more than 500 senior marketing decision makers.

According to the respondents, 36 per cent said that COVID was the biggest long-term threat to the industry. That was followed by Brexit at 26 per cent (again, it was a UK study), while a quarter said the tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google remained a serious long-term threat.

More than a third (36 per cent) believed that greater transparency about the decisions made by the likes of Facebook and Google around online advertising on their platforms would improve the advertising industry.

While a third believed that the industry would be a lot fairer and could be improved if the tech giants could agree to a list of principles.

Yesterday, B&T reported that S4 had reported a modest first-half, pre-tax profit. Despite the impact of COVID, the London-headquartered company posted earnings before tax of £118,000 ($A210,000) for January to June in its half-yearly numbers. That’s compared to a loss of £8.5 million ($15.1 million) over the same period last year.

 

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