Advertiser Exodus Snowballs as Facebook Struggles to Ease Concerns

Last Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, attended a virtual meeting with some of the company’s top advertising partners. The brands and agencies, which had started criticizing the social network for its willingness to keep hate speech unaltered and accessible on its site, were pressing for change.

According to five people with knowledge of the discussion, Mr. Zuckerberg’s message to advertisers was clear: We won’t back down.

But over the past week, Facebook’s attitude has changed. Marketing giants like Unilever, Coca-Cola and Pfizer announced that they were pausing their Facebook advertising. That outcry has grown, hitting the company’s wallet.

To contain the damage, Facebook began holding daily calls and sending emails to advertisers to soothe them, advertising executives said. Nick Clegg, the company’s communications chief, made a series of media appearances stressing that Facebook was doing its best to tamp down hate speech. On Monday, Facebook also agreed to an audit by the Media Rating Council over its approach to hate speech.

The company’s executives continued the campaign on Tuesday morning with another video meeting with advertisers, followed by separate sessions with ad holding companies. At the meeting, Facebook’s marketing chief, Carolyn Everson, public policy director, Neil Potts, and vice president for integrity, Guy Rosen, took a more conciliatory tone, acknowledging clients’ concerns about ads appearing next to hate speech and misinformation, said four people with knowledge of the event.

Yet even as Facebook has labored to stanch the ad exodus, it is having little effect. Executives at ad agencies said that more of their clients were weighing whether to join the boycott, which now

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