As Izabella Kaminska points out (“Look closely at the motives of advertiser boycotts,” Opinion, July 2), there is no shortage of self-congratulatory virtue-signalling by companies trying to reach and excite potential customers via social media. That said, the argument that businesses should not leverage their advertising spend to better manage brand image makes no sense.
The entire argument for shifting ad spend to social media was to get more precise placement within viewing range of narrowly targeted audiences, made possible by usage data and analytics. But what is the value of placement if the surrounding content begins to engage and distract viewers through outrage, to the detriment of the platform’s reputation?
Had the equivalent happened 30 years ago and I, as an advertiser, were to void an agency relationship due to a public scandal or to controversial agency policies and practices that posed a reputational threat to my firm by implication, I would not only have a fiduciary duty to act but would likely be contractually protected in doing so.
What, after all, is environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) strategy about but reaching new consumers through assurances that suppliers haven’t used child labour, pesticides, blood minerals or pay-offs to inspectors in their production processes? Isn’t that, in effect, a boycott of non-compliant suppliers? Even if companies create ESG departments and policies for self-serving reasons, simply building brand awareness in pursuit of profit, in the current era of social media transparency and the 24-hour news cycle, it might be more advisable to have no policy at all.
San Francisco, CA, US
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