Outdoor Companies Pull Facebook Ads in Protest
REI, Patagonia, The North Face, and others have committed to halting ad spends on the platform to protest the tech giant's tolerance of hate speech
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On June 17, six national civil rights groups—the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press, and Common Sense—announced a boycott, #StopHateForProfit, that urged companies to pull advertising from Facebook for the month of July in response to the platform’s reluctance to censor hate speech.
In typical outdoor-industry fashion, big players like REI, The North Face, and Patagonia were some of the first companies to answer the call.
“We’re in. We’re Out,” The North Face tweeted on Friday, June 19, two days after the start of the campaign. The California-based brand was the first major business to commit to the protest.
REI echoed the sentiment in a tweet of its own the same day. “For 82 years, we have put people over profits,” the company wrote. “We’re pulling all Facebook/Instagram advertising for the month of July. #StopHateForProfit.”
Patagonia’s head of marketing, Cory Bayers, released a statement in a series of tweets sent from the company’s main account on Sunday, June 21.
“Patagonia is proud to join the Stop Hate for Profit campaign. We will pull all ads on Facebook and Instagram, effective immediately, through at least the end of July, pending meaningful action from the social media giant. For too long, Facebook has failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform. From secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice, the stakes are too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred. As companies across the country work hard to ensure that Americans have access to free and fair elections this fall, we can’t stand by and contribute resources to companies that contribute to the problem. We stand with #StopHateforProfit in saying Facebook’s ‘profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism, and violence.'”
Representatives from The North Face and Patagonia could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesperson for REI declined to discuss the decision.
While these businesses have specified that their ad spends will be paused for the month of July, some companies in the industry have gone even further, disavowing Facebook and Instagram indefinitely.
On June 1, in an Instagram post condemning racial injustice and expressing support for Black Lives Matter, Press Forward PR—which represents Fischer, 1 percent for the Planet, Swix, and others—promised to halt Facebook and Instagram spending permanently. The company also said it would stop recommending ad buys on the two platforms to its clients.
“Beginning today, we’ll suspend recommending any spend on Facebook and Instagram in the wake of the platform’s unwillingness to support fact-based journalism,” the agency’s statement said. “One of the roles of an agency in our space is to hold up the people and publications we love. The effect of this lack of integrity around fact-based journalism has a disproportionate effect on Black communities, in addition to hurting the media we love. We invite other ad planning agencies to join us in pushing back misinformation and to encourage fact-based dialogue about the issues we face.”
Outside Business Journal spoke with Press Forward founder Andrew Gardner on Monday about his company’s forward-thinking response.
“It’s not like Facebook was beloved before we announced this,” Gardner said. “After the George Floyd killing and looking at it from the business side, we couldn’t in good conscience recommend that our brands do this [buy Facebook and Instagram ads] anymore. This doesn’t mean we have carte blanche over whether or not they do. Now, though, if they do buy ads, we’ve said that we won’t manage those campaigns for them.”
In response to The North Face’s announcement last week, Facebook’s vice president of global business, Carolyn Everson, said, “We deeply respect any brand’s decision and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information. Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good.”