Unilever, Levi’s and Coca-Cola’s decision to suspend advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter won’t directly impact India though brands are increasingly turning cautious on where they place their ads online, according to media buyers.
PepsiCo Inc. will also stop advertising on Facebook, Fox Business News reported on Sunday, citing unidentified people.
Honda Motor Co., ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s and US chocolate maker Hersheys Co. are among companies that have already decided to pause advertising on Facebook and Twitter as part of the ‘Stop hate for profit’ movement after racist content flared up on social media platforms following the killing of unarmed African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Brands are also boycotting Facebook for allegedly failing to contain the rampant spread of hate speech and misinformation especially in the run up to 2020 US elections.
“It does not have any India implication as of now but things can spiral fast. Unless there’s a global call, advertisers are not going to stop advertising in India. Having said that, brands are extremely conscious about how their ads appear on a platform and there’s a clear focus on brand safety," said Jai Lala, chief operating officer, Zenith India, a media agency.
“Brands do not want to be in such an environment. In India, such content is still much controlled as compared to the US; but if tomorrow things go out of hand, brands will take a conscious call. Platforms need to ensure they provide safe environment for brands to operate in," added Lala.
Advertisers, especially in India, are increasingly shifting their media budgets across digital platforms, adding to the growing ₹17,000-crore strong digital advertising market.
With more consumers spending time online, brands can ill afford to ignore the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok to display their offerings.
They are however making an attempt to push these platforms to ensure hateful and vile content is being actively taken down and brand advertising does not suffer due to wrong placement of ads alongside a hateful post or a video, hurting a brand’s reputation.
“There is absolutely no place for discrimination of any kind in the world today and there should be zero tolerance to any form of discrimination. Brands, corporates, agencies, technology giants are on the same page on this. Specifically, tech majors have to use their tremendous skills and resources to find solutions to weed out hate speech and fake news," said Ashish Bhasin, CEO-APAC and chairman-India at Dentsu Aegis Network.
Hindustan Unilever Ltd, the Indian unit of Unilever, and Hershey’s India said in a statement that the decision to halt advertising on Facebook “only applies to the US" market. Coca-Cola India did not respond to emailed queries.
To be sure, it is a major challenge for social media platforms as they struggle between getting and retaining advertisers over ensuring free flow of content without active censorship.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the company will intensify efforts to protect the interests of marginalized groups and minorities—immigrants, migrants, refugees, among others.
Zuckerberg said that the company would not necessarily take down posts that may violate its policies, but will label them. “I also stand against hate or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and we’re committed to removing that content, too, no matter where it comes from," he added.