Did this company's threat of boycott push Facebook's ad policy reversal over the edge?

The growing advertising boycott of Facebook by some really large corporations as well as some smaller ones, too, is experiencing success. As John wrote about Friday, it looks as though the decision of European giant conglomerate Unilever to not just stop advertising for the month of July but for the rest of 2020 was the final straw. But was it the only one?

Thursday I wrote about the advertising boycott that has been organized by some far-left social justice warrior groups. The goal is for Facebook and its sister social media platform, Instagram, to feel the financial pinch from companies pausing their advertising campaigns on the two platforms. The ultimate goal is for President Trump and his re-election campaign to be kicked off social media. The premise is that the bad Orange Man puts out hate speech and incites violence with his Facebook posts and Instagram posts.

But, was it the announcement from Unilever that escalates the boycott through the end of the year, and Verizon joining in on the July boycott that pushed Zuckerberg over the edge? His policy reversal may have also been influenced by another huge advertiser – Coca-Cola. On Friday, that company announced it was taking a pause in advertising during the month of July. Shortly after that, Levi and Dockers joined in, too.

Here’s the twist with the Coca-Cola announcement – the company said it is not “officially” joining in the boycott but “we are pausing” their advertising. How’s that for a weasel statement? Coca-Cola is pausing all paid advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days. Sure sounds like all the other companies boycotting Facebook advertising to me. Coke just took it further than Facebook and Instagram by saying “all social media platforms” which I assume means Twitter, Snapchat, and the like.

“There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media,” Coca-Cola CEO and Chairman, James Quincey, said in a statement. “The Coca-Cola Company will pause paid advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days. We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners.”

The timing of Coke’s announcement had to have had a factor in Zuckerberg’s decision to do a Facebook Live statement about his policy reversal. He went from publicly standing up for free speech for all, not just Democrats and the left, to saying Facebook stands against hate or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting. And Facebook will remove that content “no matter where it comes from.” OK, Mark. We’ll hold you to that last part. I don’t think it is going out on a limb to say I feel certain that conservatives will feel the full force of the policy reversal, especially the Trump campaign, while liberal voices will not be held to the same standards.

After Coca-Cola went on the record with its decision, Levi and Dockers jumped on the bandwagon. Hershey fell into line, too.

Following Coca-Cola’s announcement, Levi’s and Dockers said they will be pausing all advertising on Facebook and Instagram through “at least” July: “Facebook must take actions to stop misinformation and hate speech on its platforms. It is an unacceptable affront to our values. We and Dockers are joining the #stophateforprofit campaign and pausing all ads on Facebook.”

Hershey’s also announced late Friday it will be cutting spending on Facebook and Instagram by a third for the rest of the year and joining the #stophateforprofit boycott.

“We do not believe that Facebook is effectively managing violent and divisive speech on their platform. Despite repeated assertions by Facebook to take action, we have not seen meaningful change,” the company said in a statement. “Earlier this month we communicated to Facebook that we were unhappy with their stance on hate speech. We have now cut our spending on Facebook and their platforms, including Instagram, by a third for the remainder of the year. We are hopeful that Facebook will take action and make it a safe space for our consumers to communicate and gather. As a company, we stand for the values of togetherness and inclusion and we are resolute in our commitment to make a difference and be part of positive change.”

Coca-Cola has been politically correct for decades so its decision isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise is the cowardly nature of its boycott, er, “pause”. Why not just go all in and “officially” join the rest of the boycott since it is doing the same thing? I don’t think a company can go woke in a half-way statement, can it? Don’t they have to be full-throated in support of Black Lives Matter? As I write this, I keep hearing one of their advertising songs in my head – “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.” If you are old enough, you know what I’m talking about. Currently, the company’s Twitter feed is full of feel-good tweets about racial justice.

This tweet is pinned to the top of its page:

And there is some encouragement to vote:

Remember, Coke is headquartered in Atlanta. That city has been run by Democrats for a very long time. When I was in high school in Atlanta, back in the day, Maynard Jackson became the first black mayor of the city. Should Coke drinkers vote for real change and elect Republicans? I don’t think that is the message they are trying to deliver.

Facebook would like to spin this policy reversal as one that wasn’t affected by financial pressure.

In a recent memo to advertisers obtained by CNBC, Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, said “boycotting in general is not the way for us to make progress together.”

“I also really hope by now you know that we do not make policy changes tied to revenue pressure,” she said in the memo. “We set our policies based on principles rather than business interests.”

Marlarkey. Facebook’s share price dropped 8% on Friday, wiping an estimated $7 billion off CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune. Zuckerberg is an extremely wealthy man but to say it’s not all about the bottom line when major policy decisions are made is just silly. It’s a business decision. Advertising accounts for almost 100% of Facebook’s revenue.

Sorry conservatives, it was nice while it lasted.