Verizon becomes biggest advertiser to date to join Facebook boycott

'We're pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable,' Verizon warns after announcing a global pause of all consumer advertising.

Facebook: 'We respect any brand’s decision'
Facebook: 'We respect any brand’s decision'

Verizon, the US telecoms and media giant, has become the biggest advertiser to date to announce it is suspending advertising on Facebook platforms amid a growing brand boycott. 

The company announced last night (Thursday) that it is pulling advertising on Facebook and Instagram until the company "can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable". 

A Verizon Media spokesman confirmed to Campaign that this is a global Facebook adspend cessation for July and includes Verizon Media, its digital media business that includes brands such as Yahoo and HuffPost.

"All consumer marketing" is being put on pause next month, the spokesman confirmed. The company's consumer marketing chief is Diego Scott, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon.

Earlier this week, brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and REI have also said they plan to pause advertising on the platforms, but Verizon is by far the biggest brand to join the boycott so far as the biggest mobile network provider in the US.

"We have strict content policies in place and have zero tolerance when they are breached – we take action," Verizon chief media officer John Nitti said in a statement. "We’re pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners."

Viber, the messaging service owned by Japanese conglomerate Rakuten, has also joined the growing list of brands suspending Facebook activity, The Guardian reported. 

Last week, a group of six US campaigning groups – the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense – called for brands to pause their Facebook advertising in July. It comes in the wake of an eruption of Black Lives Matter protests around the world following the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, while in police custody. 

This week, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg personally attended an emergency meeting of Facebook’s client council in order to assure advertisers that the company was reviewing its policies over content moderation and policing hate speech. 

Speaking on the Campaign podcast this week, You & Mr Jones founder David Jones, a founding member of the Facebook client council, warned that the tech giant could disappear within 10 years if it does not change course to become a "force for good in the world". 

Carolyn Everson, vice-president of global business group at Facebook, said: "We respect any brand’s decision and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information. Our conversations with marketers and civil-rights organisations are about how, together, we can be a force for good."

Separately, IPG Mediabrands has published "10 media responsibility principles" as a call to action for companies to hold themselves to higher standards in brand safety.

Notably, IPG Mediabrands specifically calls out misinformation as something that brands should avoid in their media investment. "Platforms will fact-check information published by high-profile and/or high-reach accounts; ensure that factual information from reputable sources is published alongside false claims from said accounts; and put systems in place to stop amplification of false information," it adds.

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