Unilever’s decision has pushed many FMCG giants to pause social media ads, but are companies really ‘boycotting’ these social media companies?

Boycotting Social Media Ads, a bold move or a publicity stunt?

Aanya Khanna
4 min readJul 16, 2020
Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

After the consumer packaged goods giant, Unilever decided to pause brand advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S., many companies like Coca-cola, Dockers and Levis announced a temporary pause on social media advertisements. Following this announcement, Facebook and Twitter lost about 7% of their following. Such giants spend massively on Facebook and Twitter ads and hence have very high bargaining power.

So let’s start with understanding what this movement is really about?

Well, when Unilever decided to take a very bold step and pause their social media ads on various channels, they mentioned that “given the polarized atmosphere in the U.S.”, it was the need of the hour. They further commented that “continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society”.

Following this, many companies promised to revise their advertising policies and supported the giant by pausing their advertisement campaigns for at least 30 days.

So what exactly do I mean when I say that boycotting social media is a bold move?

Well, many of us are aware that social media is a huge platform with a lot of potential customers for companies to convert. Hence when companies utilise such platforms to advertise themselves, they aim to generate leads from the set of customers that view or click their ads.

Marketers generate about 69% of their leads through Twitter and about 77% of their leads from Facebook.

Considering these statistics, it is really courageous for companies to pause their advertisements on the cost of their revenue. By pausing the advertisement campaigns, companies are willingly giving up their potential leads and deals, which negatively impacts their revenues.

But are these companies really ‘boycotting’ social media platforms?

A recent report from the Telegraph claims that these companies are still feeding Facebook their consumers’ data despite freezing their advertisement on the social media platform”.

Similarly, a report from Forbes claims that while companies are “getting press coverage for joining the boycott of advertising on Facebook, they continue to spread hate via their programmatic ad spend”, defeating the whole purpose of the boycott.

Most brands are still tracking Facebook pixels and are using programmatic ad spending on the pirated websites which allows them to harvest Facebook’s data and create revenue by utilising pirated websites as a medium to gain viewer’s attention. Hence, as long as companies keep hosting Facebook pixels and continue with programmatic ad spending, it will be foolish to believe that the companies have boycotted working with Facebook and social media agencies and did this solely to prevent the spread of hate and fake news.

Why do I say this?

By Hosting Facebook pixels, these brands can harvest their user data on Facebook and then use this data to optimize and target ads for existing and future audiences. Even if they are pausing their ads, these companies are not really losing out on anything valuable.

This is because these pixels allow them to track and remarket any user that has touched their sites in the past.

Furthermore, many companies including Honda have not yet turned off their advertisement spendings. Dove, a Unilever brand, still seems to run their ads on pirated sites which are the biggest source of hate speech and fake news.

So at the end of all of it, these are just superficial protests and PR stunts which are enabling these giants to positively position themselves in the minds of their conscious customers, create emotional loyalty and get press coverage.

Companies are not just driving this movement to push social media agencies to create a transparent and more healthy ecosystem but are successfully leveraging the current circumstances to promote themselves.

Well, I personally believe that Facebook was and is still ineffective in managing violent and divisive speech on their platform. It is definitely because of the initiative of these giants that Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he intends to discuss the “new policies to connect people with authoritative information about voting, crack down on voter suppression, and fight hate speech.” I am sure that this movement will push social media companies for systematic improvement in creating a more healthy and transparent digital media ecosystem.

Nevertheless, it is astonishing how for the first time in its history, Facebook is facing an organized boycott from giants. It is commendable how many companies from various industries are trying to join hands and follow the suit.

However, with Facebook having about 8 million advertisers, would pulling advertisements really push them to change? Well, only time can tell…

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.



Aanya Khanna

Marketing Manager | Here to share my knowledge and real-life experiences with like-minded people!