Bigger brands can afford to take their ad budgets elsewhere – less so with direct-to-consumer brands.
- Over 500 companies, well-known consumer brands among them, have announced that they will not advertise on Facebook-owned media properties until the company curbs hate speech on its platform.
- Facebook is likely to sustain minimal damages at the hands of the #StopHateForProfit movement, because the lion's share of potential participants depend on the platform for business, and it isn't mutual.
- Even if all 100 of Facebook's top ad buyers were to suddenly freeze their campaigns and participate in the boycott, that would still only represent 6% of the platform's income.
Who has joined? (And who hasn't?)<p>Over <a href="https://www.stophateforprofit.org/participating-businesses" target="_blank">500 companies</a>, including LEGO, Adidas, Unilever, Dunkin, Walgreens, Patagonia, and Target have announced that they will not work with Facebook until the company takes action to address misinformation and hate speech on its platform. While this might sound impressive on the surface, a <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/01/tech/facebook-top-advertisers/index.html" target="_blank">CNN analysis</a> of Facebook's top advertisers found that the overwhelming majority of Facebook's 100 biggest ad spenders have yet to join the movement. Of the top 25 ad spenders, accounting for almost 3 percent of Facebook's revenue in 2019, only three have joined the boycott. These are Microsoft, Starbucks, and pharma giant Pfizer.</p><p>Of course, despite all the negative press and relatively high volume of companies joining the boycott, Facebook's ad revenues are still a juggernaut. Looking at data from the past few years, and projecting where things are headed, as a recent <a href="https://commonthreadco.com/blogs/coachs-corner/ecommerce-trends-future" target="_blank">direct-to-consumer e-commerce report</a> from Common Thread Collective points out, demand for paid media on the platform is unlikely to wane any time soon.</p>
The socially dependent long tail<p>Sure, larger consumer brands are attracted to Facebook's audience targeting capabilities, massive reach, and measurable results. But for household names, running campaigns on Facebook is only one cog in a much larger machine.</p><p>Consider Levi Strauss, a classic consumer brand, as an example. They're participants in the #StopHateForProfit boycott, but this company advertises with any number of media types, including banner ads on content websites, TV spots, and posters in subway cars. What's more, their ad campaigns are generally more about branding than direct sales. </p><p>Levi's manages sales channels for both wholesale and retail e-commerce and distributes goods via scores of retail partners, and they have some 15,000 franchised Levi's stores. When a brand like this stops advertising on Facebook, their brand awareness and sales are unlikely to take a significant hit, largely due to the diversity of their promotional and sales channel mix.</p>
How big a deal is DTC?<p>Overall, online sales continue to grow, with <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/379112/e-commerce-share-of-retail-sales-in-us/" target="_blank">nearly 14 percent</a> of U.S. total retail sales estimated to come from e-commerce channels by 2021.</p><p>While DTC brands occupy only <a href="https://www.emarketer.com/newsroom/index.php/us-direct-to-consumer-ecommerce-sales-will-rise-to-nearly-18-billion-in-2020/" target="_blank">2.6 percent of the U.S. e-commerce market</a>, this year will likely see a 24 percent increase, making these brands a force to be reckoned with. </p>
Facebook’s response<p>It may seem like Facebook is too big of a force to be hurt by this situation. An estimated <a href="https://www.emarketer.com/content/uptick-us-adults-social-media-usage-will-likely-normalize-post-pandemic?ecid=NL1001" target="_blank">51 percent of U.S. adults</a> are using social media at higher rates during the pandemic, generating massive growth for Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram.</p><p>Facebook collected more than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/29/business/dealbook/facebook-boycott-ads.html#:~:text=A%20boycott%20of%20advertisers%20on,Who's%20doing%20what." target="_blank">$17 billion in advertising revenue</a> in the first quarter of 2020. Losing big brand ad spending is painful, but because the bulk of the company's ad revenues come from DTC brands and other smaller companies that rely heavily on the platform to drive direct e-commerce sales, it's unlikely that Zuckerberg will feel the need to make any meaningful changes.</p><p>Facebook said in a statement that they are taking steps to "keep hate off of our platform" and added, "We know we will be judged by our actions not by our words and are grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement."</p><p>Facebook is also rolling out modifications to curb the spread of misinformation and hate speech, but the groups spearheading the boycott movement don't think that this is enough.</p><p>"This isn't over. We will continue to expand the boycott until Facebook takes our demands seriously," Jessica J. González, the co-CEO of Free Press <a href="https://www.freepress.net/news/press-releases/stophateforprofit-sees-no-commitment-action-meeting-between-campaign-leaders" target="_blank">said in a statement</a>. "We won't be distracted by Facebook's spin today or any day. Mark, Sheryl and their colleagues have much work to do to make Facebook a better place for everyone, and they need to get it done now."</p><p>The problem, however, is arguably far harder to address than many of those protesting Facebook would acknowledge. The idea of user-generated content as a model for mass media was all well and good two decades ago, when it was fresh, but once it's been weaponized by foreign instigators, Boogaloo groups and neo-Nazis, you can't really put the cat back into the bag.</p>
Closing remarks<p>Ultimately, Facebook knows that consumer brands need it more than it needs them. While the mounting pressure is forcing Facebook to expand its brand safety ad policies and take proactive steps to limit the spread of hate and harmful content, at the end of the day, the giant and its shareholders won't likely suffer a major blow to revenue. Managing and mitigating the Wild West of social media remains a dubious mission at best. </p>
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Humans are woefully unaware of their olfactory sense. That's the reality we've been sold.
- Scent provides valuable information about personality traits and attractiveness.
- Since the 1920s, companies have made us anxious about our odor in order to sell us their products.
- Our disdain of personal smell is related to our fear of aging and death.
Dr. Stuart Firestein: The Limits of Our Sense of Smell<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a829e082cab0a6b60ca47868b27cfc84"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IPflaQgs7bo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Ashenburg's book begins in the Roman bathhouses. She traces cleanliness rituals throughout time in that context. With the introduction of germ theory, it slowly dawned on Europeans and Americans—while the book is global, she mostly focuses on these geographical regions—that blocked pores were not doing much good in keeping disease away. As the Age of Industry commenced, workers packed into warehouses and on shipping docks began noticing their co-workers' scents. A new industry was born.</p><p>Two, in fact. As Ashenburg writes, "toilet soap and advertising grew up together." Both had long existed, but with the introduction of germ theory into the popular vernacular, these strange bedfellows united. The race to sell began. As everyone now knows, if you can corner a new market, you'll make bank. </p><p>Such was the case when Lambert Pharmaceutical's president, Gerald Lambert, picked out "halitosis" from his chemists' list. He wanted to aggressively market one of his company's oral antiseptics. For the next five years, Listerine's ads were devoted to defining halitosis, telling prospective customers that failed job offers and divorce are due to bad breath. The ploy worked. In 1921, Listerine brought in $115,000 in sales. Seven years later it topped $8 million. </p><p>Around the same time, a copywriter named James Webb pumped out ads for his employer, J. Walter Thompson, claiming that women's armpits stunk. He lost a lot of dates. Yet within a year of that campaign, his client, Odorono—say it aloud—watched their profits increase by 112 percent. As Ashenburg writes, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The success of the Odorono ad and the deluge of deodorant advertisements that followed say much about the decade's willingness to broach taboo subjects and its growing intolerance of secretions and smells." </p>
Associate Brand Director of P&G's Secret Deodorant Sara Saunders speaks onstage during The 2020 MAKERS Conference on February 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MAKERS<p>By 1932, the American author, Sophia Hadida, made a big splash with her book on manners. She coined a new term, Body Odor, which has been embraced as B.O. ever since. An entire market opened up for deodorants, soaps, perfumes, and men's and women's grooming products, all designed to maximize profit thanks to our growing anxiety. </p><p>Which is why I asked that question on social media. Among animals, humans have a woefully poor sense of smell. As bipeds, we began relying on sight and touch while neglecting our olfactory skills. As such, we've evolved with 20 million smell receptors. Not bad, until you consider that your dog has <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/the-nose-knows-telling-age-based-on-scent/" target="_blank">11 times that number</a>. Smell still guides our life in many ways, including the lovers we choose and the business partners we trust.</p><p>This is a different sensibility than the marketing blitz that began a century ago. Smell informs. Disguising or erasing your scent does the opposite. Thanks to the anxiety peddled by companies pushing their products, we've decided it's better to remain ignorant. With that, we've lost a lot of data about our world. </p><p>Aging is one particularly problematic smell to some. Researchers <a href="https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-jul-14-mn-55812-story.html" target="_blank">have long worked</a> on ridding us of this burden. Yet aging shouldn't be seen as a burden. In fact, the insane idea that <a href="https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/texas-dan-patrick-many-seniors-willing-sacrifice-economy-n1167521" target="_blank">sacrificing our eldest for the sake of the economy</a> is good stems from a longtime existential distress regarding aging and death. Our smell <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0038110#abstract0" target="_blank">changes as we age</a>, sure, which is called biology. It's useful information, such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/per.848" target="_blank">assessing personality traits</a> and <a href="https://www.nature.com/news/2001/010308/full/news010308-10.html" target="_blank">detecting immune system capabilities</a>.</p><p>While everyone smells, women have been especially affected by this marketing phenomenon. Women <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00242/full" target="_blank">generally have a better olfactory sense</a> than men, but that comes at a cost. For example, Ashenburg writes that the sexual revolution of the sixties was especially confusing thanks to an advertising rush of feminine hygiene products.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Sex is natural and wonderful, but the 'natural you' needs to be sprayed to be wonderful. Sex is natural and wonderful, but it leaves a woman in urgent need of washing, powdering, spraying, and douching. Sex is natural and wonderful, but it means that you can be rejected on the most intimate level."</p><p>There is no easy response to this dilemma. Sitting next to someone of a particular odor on a plane is not enjoyable. Social mores still matter. But we have to wonder why we cover up or disguise our scent so often. It provides valuable information, but more importantly, it's who we are.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is</em> "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</p>
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