Unilever pauses Facebook and Twitter advertising for rest of 2020 due to ‘polarized atmosphere’ in U.S.

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An employee straightens a row of Dove shampoo bottles, a product of Anglo-Dutch company Unilever.

Tengku Bahar | AFP | Getty Images

Unilever on Friday said it would be pausing brand advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S. “through at least the end of the year.” 

“Given our Responsibility Framework and the polarized atmosphere in the U.S., we have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” the company said in an emailed statement it attributed to Luis Di Como, the company’s EVP of Global Media. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary.”

Shares of Facebook and Twitter both fell more than 7% after Unilever made the announcement. 

The London-based consumer packaged goods giant said it would maintain its planned media investment in the U.S. by shifting to other media. Unilever makes Breyers and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Lipton and Pure Leaf teas, along with consumer staples like Dove products.

“We are actively engaging with all digital platforms to make meaningful change and impact trust and transparency,” the statement also said. “We have made substantial progress, and we acknowledge the efforts of our partners, but there is much more to be done, especially in the areas of divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S.” 

In the week since a group of organizations called on Facebook advertisers to pause their ad spend during the month of July, more than 90 marketers including Verizon, Patagonia, REI, Lending Club, The North Face, Ben & Jerry’s have announced their intention to join, according to a running list from Sleeping Giants. The group of organizations includes the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense.

The organizations said they’re asking Facebook to more stringently police hate speech and disinformation by taking a number of actions, including creating a “separate moderation pipeline” for users who say they’ve been targeted because of their race or religion, or to let advertisers see how frequently their ads appeared near to content that was later removed for misinformation or hate, and allow them refunds for those advertisements. 

Unilever spent more than $11.8 million in the U.S. so far this year on Facebook, according to marketing analytics firm Pathmatics. 

Last year, Facebook brought in $69.7 billion in ad revenue globally through its millions of advertisers. The platform said earlier this year it has more than 8 million advertisers. 

Facebook didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

In a recent memo to advertisers obtained by CNBC, the company’s VP of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson said “boycotting in general is not the way for us to make progress together.” 

“I also really hope by now you know that we do not make policy changes tied to revenue pressure,” she said in the memo. “We set our policies based on principles rather than business interests.”  

Twitter’s VP of global client solutions Sarah Personette responded to the move from Unilever in a statement. 

“We have developed policies and platform capabilities designed to protect and serve the public conversation, and as always, are committed to amplifying voices from underrepresented communities and marginalized groups,” she said. “We are respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”

CNBC’s Julia Boorstin contributed to this report.

This story is developing



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