Ad Execs to Facebook – Enough is Enough

With all the recent news critical of Facebook and its operating policies, the ad world has been largely silent on the scandals – until now.

“Facebook has suffered a near nonstop drip of bad news in 2018, and with each event advertisers have barely uttered a peep while continuing to spend,” writes Claire Atkinson in NBC News.

“But this week, with yet another revelation about the company’s past data practices, one agency chief finally said enough is enough, while other ad agency senior executives say they are questioning how much consumers continue to trust Facebook and whether advertisements on the social network continue to be effective.”

It’s about time, folks.

We saw the typing on the Facebook wall back in 2015 when we said see ya to the social giant. Some people thought we were nuts. But we approached our decision from a business-like perspective, carefully analyzing the return on investment. The same way we do for other forms of marketing and advertising; you know, the way any company should evaluate the channels it uses. We saw it just wasn’t worth it.

That was before Facebook’s horrible year got even horribler, with lawsuits mounting and data breaches becoming comically common. Even so, the general reaction was some momentary indignation followed by a weird “who cares” reaction from advertisers, witnessed by this data graphic from just two months ago:

Finally, it appears that the giant has awoken, and it’s not happy. As Atkinson explains, some senior ad agency executives are publicly speaking out against Facebook as an ad platform.

“It’s about time we take a collective stand against the egregious behavior of Facebook,” wrote Mat Baxter, global CEO of ad agency Initiative in a LinkedIn post.  He believes that consumer angst and government pressure won’t be enough to change the culture at Facebook. That will come only when they feel the pressure from advertisers.

“Hopefully, when they feel the pain of lost advertising dollars things might just change,” Baxter wrote. 

For others like Jim Helberg, chief media office at RPA Advertising, it’s about trust – that most valuable commodity in the quest to build customer relationships.

“We will never compromise our most valuable chip that is consumer trust,” he told Atkinson.

Still, Facebook continues to hold an almost sacred sway over many in the industry, including one who asked not to be named.

“They’ve broken trust with the consumer numerous times,” her unnamed source said. “They’ve also broken trust with advertisers, but no one seems to care.”

Now, finally, it appears that advertisers – or at least the agencies that represent them – do indeed care. And they are finally beginning to speak out, as P&G’s Marc Pritchard did almost two years ago when he told the digital ad agency to grow up.

Meanwhile, don’t for a minute believe that all has been disclosed about Facebook and nothing else could possibly go wrong. There will undoubtedly be more breaches and more data scandals. Yet brands are waking from their digital daze and finally realizing that a click and a like mean little if the platform on which they appear is untrusted

For publishers, it’s time to double down on your efforts to position yourself as a trusted, honorable platform for brands, and offer advertisers a safe haven. This is the new age of marketing and advertising, and any hint of a sleaze factor can do irreparable damage.  Revel in that. Be brave, be innovative, and embrace this opportunity to bring about real change in how we all engage with our audience.