Long before Brexit, Trump, Vagina Candles, Megxit and COVID-19, Gwyneth and Chris introduced the world to conscious uncoupling in 2014. How we laughed.

That was probably the last time Zuckerberg slept easy. I wonder if he blames Paltrow and Martin for the unbalancing of the universe that set the world on this path?  

Six years on, mega brands are consciously uncoupling from Facebook in their droves. But is all as it seems? Two things could be at play here; one obvious, the other, like any relationship, buried under emotions.

Let’s start with the obvious one, the moral statement from 600+ global brands around Facebook’s handling of misinformation and hate speech. The Stop Hate for Profit movement. A powerful social stance in a world that feels incredibly divided and divisive. 

Guilty, Facebook was initially slow to move on this. However, should we be asking; is the industry being opportunist? As one observer, Steven Bartlett, commented this week, misinformation and hate speech is an internet problem. 

Let’s glance at the evidence in Facebook’s defence. 9.6 million hate speech posts removed in Q1 vs. 5.7 million in Q4 2019. 3.2 billion fake accounts removed between April and September 2019, twice as many as the year before. Facebook’s AI content moderation system is the worlds most advanced. Zuckerberg personally reviews Trumps posts and has removed three Trump or Trump Campaign ads; fake Census ad, Nazi triangles and an altered CNN video (under DMCA). It could be said that Facebook, a platform of 2.6 Billion users, are making some serious strides in this war.  

This leads me to the ulterior, commercially focused motive that mega brands perhaps don’t want to talk about.  

Facebook finds itself in an uncomfortable social monopoly position, and this is where things turn sour. After years of diminishing organic reach, are big brands giving the group the middle finger? Confident enough in the digital world they’re relinquishing their reliance on the Facebook safety blanket and diversifying into other channels in search of growth. Does Unilever pulling spend for the remainder of 2020 signal something more than a social conscience at play? Their multi-million $$ ad spend has to go somewhere. Could this be a negotiation tactic? Probably not. Or is this the world’s biggest advertiser quietly whispering; We’ve grown apart. We’re ready to experiment with other channels. Thanks for the last ten years. It’s time to consciously uncouple. 

Zuckerberg’s POV  “all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough”. I suspect so, but probably not as invested as previous years. There’s just too many attractive new options now.

Wired always advises our clients to not rely heavily on one channel, keep a diverse channel mix and to be aware of each platform’s efforts to run a safe, secure and fair environment. That way, the relationship always stays fresh and effective. 


Words By David KennedyCreative Strategy Director

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