In a sign of diminishing faith in social media platforms to police hate speech, a new WFA survey indicates that nearly a third of the world’s largest brands have cut spend or are likely to do so.

This is according to a study from the World Federation of Advertisers, in which members were asked what their organisation’s position on advertising spend is if platforms do not adapt their policies on hate speech; 76 responded.

The results make sobering reading. Though just 5% have made the decision to withhold spend, a further quarter (26%) feel it is likely they will do so too.

Image source: WFA


Unsurprisingly, the largest proportion of respondents remains undecided; just under a third feel it’s either likely they will maintain spend or won’t be cutting.

Some respondents expressed frustration with the platforms, given that they haven’t adjusted based on calls from consumers or stakeholders. “Perhaps competition is the only way to get [them] in particular to change,” one said.

Meanwhile, others were more pessimistic: “Advertisers may pull out from these platforms but most of the consumers will not.”

Speaking to the Financial Times, chief executive of the WFA Stephen Loerke noted how this moment feels like a turning point amid the pressure of the #StopHateforProfit campaign.

“What’s striking is the number of brands who are saying they are reassessing their longer-term media allocation strategies and demanding structural changes in the way platforms address racial intolerance, hate speech and harmful content,” Loerke explained.

The survey follows the news – now covered by regularly updated lists of companies that have joined the boycott on news sites – that major advertisers have decided to pull social advertising, with some singling out Facebook, while others have expressed scepticism at the idea that social media can be cleaned up.

Of course, the dynamics emerging are quite complex. As Axios points out, the brands that are pulling spend have tended to follow members of their category, indicating a level of peer pressure at play.

What is clear, is that the industry is divided on how it should proceed, though there is a sense of anticipation creeping in around what the business effects of cutting spend might be.

The aim, however, is far clearer. As one WFA respondent put it, “We want to have a longer-term plan, non-reactive [toward] a sustainable and transparent media supply chain.”

Sourced from the WFA, Financial Times, WARC, Axios