8 Pros Predict the Facebook Boycott’s Impact on Publishers

Jane O'Hara
Jane O'Hara
8 Pros Predict the Facebook Boycott’s Impact on Publishers

Since the Stop Hate for Profit campaign launched last month, more than 500 companies have boycotted Facebook advertising, including high-profile brands such as Walmart, McDonald’s, and Kellogg’s, who have paused Facebook ad spending without joining the official campaign.

As the boycott continues — this month, this year, and/or indefinitely — and Facebook ad revenue declines more than 31%, we wondered how other publishers would be affected. Does this present an opportunity for smaller publishers to secure direct ad buys? Or will these ad budgets just go to Google, Amazon, and other select major publishers, making it harder to compete with them?

We asked eight industry leaders for their responses to the same question:

“What long-term challenges and opportunities does the Facebook boycott present for publishers?”
Maja Milicevic, Sparrow Advisers
Maja is a co-founder of Sparrow Advisers, a global strategic management consultancy bringing deep operational expertise to solve strategic and tactical objectives of companies in and around the ad tech and martech space.

“The most recent Facebook boycott highlights just how much the make up and the respective influence of individual advertisers has changed. Blue chip advertisers routinely account for ~50%–70% of TV network and cable ad revenue, but only ~20% of Facebook revenue. Q1 2020 saw Facebook report over 8MM advertisers. For today's advertising platforms the key client is not a large marketer but a small business (or rather, millions of them).

So what does this shift mean for publishers? There are two core strategies we see and neither is without challenges:

  • Make your inventory a must-buy As a publisher, you should make sure you're doing everything possible to differentiate and make your inventory a must and easy buy. We see many publishers emphasise their scale while trying to woo advertisers — which tends to be a losing battle, especially against Facebook's unprecedented scale. Instead, consider building out a different offering, perhaps focusing more on context and quality and uniqueness of your content rather than sheer scale of audience. Be nimble in your tech partnerships, offer exciting types of inventory, and make sure you don't overlook training and education. This strategy should be evergreen and offers the biggest upside long-term.
  • Compete with the big platforms by emulating their business model There is a noticeable uptick in publishers offering self-serve solutions of their own, aimed at attracting the rising spend potential of cumulative SMBs. Just in the past two weeks, Hulu and TikTok launched their solutions, joining Snap, TripAdvisor, LinkedIn, and others. While this is a good strategy to diversify revenue and bring new buyers, the challenge will be differentiation between different self-serve offerings. What will this look like operationally for the brands? Logging into multiple different interfaces is no one's preferred method, especially if these marketers don't have dedicated marketing/trafficking teams.

One thing that remains to be seen is if this boycott sticks or if it's just temporary deviation like earlier boycotts."

Tim Sleath, VDX.tv
Tim is Vice President of Product Management and Data Protection Officer at VDX.tv, a global advertising technology company transforming the way brands connect with relevant audiences in today’s converging video landscape.

“While the Facebook boycott may offer some short-term boost for smaller publishers, it’s unlikely to be meaningful longer term. The boycott is a position taken by some big brands and is laudable, but as we’ve seen before, most, if not all, of that revenue will revert back to Facebook in due course — hopefully as Facebook concedes their content filtering is shambolic and their laissez-faire attitude is unacceptable.

I like the idea that small brands, even entrepreneurs, will continue to use Facebook as it’s pretty simple and low cost, even if it’s not a wonderful product; whereas larger brands will discover via this opportunity what benefit more tailored solutions, improved service, and hugely better inventory can do for them. It’s certainly an opportunity, and publishers should do their utmost to hold on to any of the budgets that come their way…but I fear Facebook’s gravity will pull much of it back to them within a few months.”

Claire Atkin, Check My Ads
Claire Atkin is the co-founder of Check My Ads, which helps brands stay away from fake news, disinformation, and hate speech.

“This is an opportunity for publishers to be loud and proud about journalistic standards, quality reporting, and consumer trust — all things that advertisers are looking for right now.

If you’re a publisher and you have the ability to accept direct media buys, this is your chance to offer the best possible packages to advertisers who are looking to keep their ad spend efficient and reduce the amount of middle men they deal with.”

Mike Chowla, PubMatic
Mike is the Senior Director of Product Management at PubMatic, a digital advertising technology company empowering app developers and publishers to maximize their programmatic advertising.

“The Facebook boycott opens up the opportunity for publishers to showcase the value of advertisements appearing next to professionally produced content. The advertising budgets previously going to Facebook were inaccessible to web publishers, especially after Facebook shuttered Audience Network for the web in April.

For publishers to capitalize on the opportunity in the near term, they should work with high-quality supply partners so they preserve the value of their inventory and evaluate whether they have the right mix of supply paths to their inventory. And it's a great time to make sure existing integrations are performing to their full potential.

In the medium term, publishers should make sure they have solid identity and first-party data strategies in place. With the upcoming cookiepocolypse, publishers should have already been trialing identity partners. The Facebook boycott accelerates the value of getting the right identity partnerships in place so the advertisers boycotting Facebook can find their audience on a publisher's site.”

Elena Podshuveit, Admixer
Elena is Chief Products Officer for Admixer, which provides full-stack programmatic solutions for publishers, brands, and advertising agencies. Elena consults large publishing houses on the digitalization and monetization of their assets.

“In the short term, publishers will only win when the leading advertisers boycott one of their largest competitors. After all, when advertisers decrease Facebook spending, their marketing budgets have to move somewhere else, because they won’t go offline, of course.

However, in the long run, the elimination of third-party cookies will make it extremely hard for publishers to capitalize on the hype if they haven’t prepared in advance.

Facebook has unique tools for precise audience targeting. It has extensive knowledge about users, while its targeting algorithms and advertiser self-service accounts allow both large corporations and SMBs to reach their exact target audience.

Large high-quality publishers should now start managing their own first-party data and provide advertisers with, at least, precise targeting. If all the big publishers unite in conglomerates and provide access to the necessary number of users, then Facebook should reverse the situation as soon as possible.”

Gary Portney, Adtoniq
Gary is the founder and CEO of Adtoniq, a proprietary permissions-based advertising platform that is helping companies understand and solve for ad blocking, connecting digital advertisers with this premium audience and providing brand new revenue opportunities for publishers.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly intolerant of social media sites, Facebook and Instagram to name but two. The boycott stemming from the #StopHateforProfit campaign is a direct response by advertisers to consumer demands and the need to protect their brand. With the boycott growing to more than 400 advertisers including Allstate, GEICO, Ikea, McDonald's and Walmart — their second largest advertiser — and Disney being added to the list poses a serious revenue threat to Facebook going forward.

But this is not the only consumer-driven threat heading Facebook’s way and for those companies that advertise on their platform. We are watching ad blocking become a massive problem. The backlash against online advertising has reached a tipping point with ad blocking spanning 15–38%, depending on demographics, across the US population and larger globally, and estimates say that ad blockers are currently used on over one billion devices. That represents some 70M+ people in the US that do not see traditional digital advertising. And that in turn means advertisers are unable to reach a large segment of their target audience. This, of course, has not been the case on Facebook, which has engaged in desktop ad blocking evasion. However, we have found that sooner or later, forcing ads on consumers and giving them no choice is incredibly damaging for the publisher and the brands in question.

So short-term or long-term, it’s down to Facebook to decide whether it is going to recognize the power of consumers and change, or not. If they do, it will require a fundamental realignment of their business models and practices. If they don’t, they run a significant risk that brands will stop not millions but billions of dollars in ad spend. Then it’s a question of what advertisers do with that ad spend, which opens the door to opportunities for the broader publisher community.”

Nikki Porter, PubWise
Nikki is Head of Marketing at PubWise, the first header-as-a-service platform that’s leading the revolution in hyperautomation for digital advertising.

“PubWise sought the input from their associates and clients to form an opinion about the Facebook boycott as it relates to publishers. Boycotts typically result in financial consequences that can lead to a turning point which has different long-term effects: positive and negative.

The positive long-term effects could arise from the creation of a brand new platform with highly engaged users. Opportunity is inevitable when demand outweighs supply. If Facebook loses momentum, it could create a gap that can be filled by a brand new platform or a reiteration of an existing platform that is widely adopted by the market.

The negative long-term effects for publishers will be any lack of investment to improve and iterate on their ad platforms. For example, a lack of feature parity with Facebook could result in lower adoption rates by advertisers who are accustomed to Facebook's targeting options and more. Publishers who leverage their first-party data can also offer advertisers brand safety and ensure compliance with CCPA and other privacy laws.”

Joe Hall, Spaceback
Joe is the COO of Spaceback, the first platform to bridge the gap between social and paid media.

“The challenge for publishers is not simply to provide a short-term alternative, but instead, provide a long-term strategic solution to any advertiser whether they choose to "lean in" to the boycott or not.

The opportunity for publishers is to make it easy for advertisers to scale beyond the walled gardens of social. That is where we're seeing innovative brands trying to recreate the Facebook experience across the wider web. Spaceback, for instance, turns a brand's best social content from platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more into Social Display ads that appear on brand-safe content, mimicking these user-friendly native ads without giving Facebook money."

Jane O'Hara
Jane O'Hara

Jane is the Senior Marketing Manager at Kevel. She enjoys discovering user-first ad platforms and articulating the value of Kevel's ad serving APIs.