Social platforms vs social responsibility? How should marketers respond?
Many advertisers are pulling their ads from social media platforms as a result of concerns about policies on hate speech. 31% of 58 WFA, World Federation of Advertisers, member companies surveyed said they are already (5%) or likely (26%) to withhold social media spending, while 41% remained undecided.
Brands invest roughly 160 billion euros on platforms, and up to 55% of it goes to a network of different content creators, some of which seek to spread harmful content. A negative brand safety incident can create global negative consumer blowback and 70% of advertisers surveyed by WFA consider brand safety a serious or very serious problem.
Stephan Loerke, CEO of WFA, said: “Advertisers and their agencies are extremely concerned by the proliferation of illegal and harmful content on social media platforms. We believe that much more needs to be done to reduce the amount of harmful and divisive content on social media platforms, and we are focused on solutions that ensure that bad actors have as little access to advertiser funding as possible.”
AANA joins the WFA in urging all platforms to fight against the proliferation of hate, racism, violence, discrimination and misleading information on their sites. Ways of driving change include advertisers working together with social media platforms and the wider ad industry to challenge existing practices and create a safer and fairer online media environment for everyone.
In an international response to these issues, WFA members including some AANA members, established the Global Alliance for Responsible Media [GARM] to create a more sustainable and responsible digital environment that protects consumers, the media industry, and society as a result. GARM is an advertiser centric community of global brands, media agencies, media owners and platforms, and industry bodies. Alongside other actions, GARM is working on solutions to protect consumers from hate speech, bullying and disinformation.
However Australian marketers can take control of their own destinies immediately. Members have approached the AANA seeking advice on how they should respond to the current boycotts. Advertisers should invest the time to establish clear Responsible Advertising Frameworks (RAFs). These are simple policy documents authored by marketing but with the input of important stakeholders such as the CEO, legal team, corporate communications team, and external agency partners. RAFs define what is acceptable to the brand when it comes to responsible advertising content, the requirements of social platforms and media owners on the placement of that content and the infrastructure they must have in place to deliver brand safety. Decision rights and metrics can be defined on many of these dimensions so that objectivity and impartiality can be brought into the decision making process on whether to maintain or withdraw advertising in the event of a breach.
Importantly, the RAF is shared transparently with platforms and media owners so that it comes as no surprise to either party when a response is required and implemented. Of course, each advertiser will have a unique RAF, heavily influenced by their own corporate values, culture and purpose. Crucially, a strong RAF removes the question of “what should we do?” or “should we be doing the same?” It puts the control back into the marketer’s hands and importantly, demonstrates accountability & action in delivering responsible marketing.
The 41% of WFA surveyed companies who were “undecided” on whether to boycott or not would not be left wondering what to do if they had a robust Responsible Advertising Framework already in place.