Facebook is The North Face's second biggest platform by advertising spend. Here's why the brand still decided to yank its ad dollars from the platform.
The North Face became the first major brand to join a temporary Facebook ad boycott called for by organizations including the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and Sleeping Giants. The company's head of marketing Steve Lesnard said the company took the step because it values providing people with safe access to the outdoors, and by extension, society. Lesnard said Facebook was its second largest media investment, but that the company wanted the platform to set stricter rules around hate speech, racist rhetoric, and spread of misinformation. It's reallocating spend toward Google and Pinterest and affiliate marketing and retargeting in the meantime. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The North Face became the first major brand to join the temporary ad boycott called for by organizations including the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and Sleeping Giants, halting ads on Facebook and Instagram in the US through July. Steve Lesnard, The North Face's global VP of marketing, told Business Insider how it arrived at the decision. The boycott call #StopHateForProfit was noted by a member of The North Face's digital brand team on Wednesday, Lesnard said. "As soon as it was flagged, we looked at all the different angles in terms of strategy, communication and how we had to redirect our media spend in order to minimize any impact on our business to be able to commit," he said. "We were hoping to get Facebook to really take a hard look at their policies for stricter rules on hate speech, racist rhetoric and, and spread of misinformation." The North Face took the step because it values providing people with safe access to the outdoors, and by extension, society, Lesnard said. The move was not due to any pressure from its customer base, virtue-signaling to its employees, a PR stunt, or prompted by the seasonality of its business — as the summer is not a slow sales period for the company. It stemmed from a desire to create positive change immediately, he said. "We've actually seen [sales] activity really growing as people explore more and with the back-to-school season being around the corner," he said. Marketers are showing increasing skepticism toward Facebook and its content-moderation policies in the aftermath of President Trump's inflammatory comments on George Floyd's death. REI, Patagonia and Eddie Bauer and others, have since joined the boycott. Facebook has faced criticism on its handling of user data and the spread of misinformation before, but such boycott calls have rarely translated to wider collective action. Corporate giants including Unilever and GM continue to push for change without boycotting the platform. While he declined to say how much the company spends on the platform, Lesnard said that Facebook was its second largest media partner in terms of spend, so the decision to pull spending isn't one that The North Face took lightly. VF Corp, The North Face's parent company that also owns brands including Vans and Timberland, spent $756 million on advertising in 2019. "It was really important that we put our money where our mouth was," he said. Lesnard said that the company would reevaluate its stance within 30 days, and that in the meantime, was reallocating Facebook's share of its advertising budget toward Google and Pinterest and affiliate marketing and retargeting. He also said that he expected the boycott movement to gain momentum, and had been getting calls from fellow marketers as they try to decide what to do themselves. "There haven't been any changes yet," he said. "We hope to see stricter rules and a roadmap [by Facebook] to get there."SEE ALSO: Read the memo Facebook is sending to ad agencies as calls for advertisers to boycott the platform in July intensify Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why electric planes haven't taken off yet
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