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Unilever halts Facebook and Twitter ads in 2020, the biggest marketer yet to do so

The consumer goods giant becomes the biggest member of a growing coalition, joining Verizon, the North Face, Ben & Jerry’s, and many more.

Unilever halts Facebook and Twitter ads in 2020, the biggest marketer yet to do so
[Photo: iStock]

Now we’re talking.

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Unilever has announced that it is halting all U.S. ads on both Facebook and Twitter for the remainder of 202o, including Facebook-owned Instagram, due to the sheer amount of hate speech and divisive content on the platforms.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the company’s executive vice president of global media, Luis Di Como, said, “Based on the current polarization and the election that we are having in the U.S., there needs to be much more enforcement in the area of hate speech.”

The move comes after another major brand—Verizon—announced that it was joining the ongoing #StopProfitForHate campaign of advertisers boycotting Facebook for the month of July. The boycott was kicked off by civil rights groups such as the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League as well as Color of Change, Free Press, Common Sense, and Sleeping Giants. It was then quickly picked up by outdoor brands such as the North Face, Patagonia, and REI.

On Tuesday, Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s announced it was joining the boycott.

Those were all powerfully symbolic moves, but as critics and supporters alike have said, no boycott of Facebook—a company with $70 billion in advertising revenue—would have any significant effect if the big spenders weren’t involved. Now one of the biggest has stepped into the ring. With such brands as Dove, Axe, Lipton, and many more in its portfolio, Unilever spends about $8 billion a year on advertising, putting it in the global Top 5.

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In a statement, the company said, “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society.”

With this, Unilever becomes by far the most high-profile member of the boycott, whose action dents Facebook the most. Just as important is it extending its withdrawal beyond just the month of July to the end of the year. Facebook is famous for apologizing, promising to examine its weak points, and then promptly doing nothing, maintaining the status quo. As former Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario told Kara Swisher this week on the boycott, “The only thing that works is really hitting them in the wallet.”

At least to some extent, this will do just that. The momentum appears to be building.

Your move, P&G.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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