Heightened Consciousness

The death of George Floyd didn’t only trigger calls for equality and an end to unwarranted police conduct, it also created an elevated atmosphere of activism and corporate change that hasn’t been seen in decades.

Besides the protests, some brands have withdrawn ads on Facebook in protest to the platform’s apparent unwillingness to manage and control hate speech and disinformation.  Companies like The North Face, Patagonia, Upwork, and REI have already dropped advertising through July and there are reports of more companies joining in to also abandon other social media sites.

Groups like the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP urged Facebook advertisers to do the same and even ran a one-page ad in the LA Times. Some agencies also jumped aboard. 360i asked its clients to rethink their relationship with Facebook while IPG Mediabrands asked for more accountability from the platform.

Facebook’s current position is in sharp contrast to Twitter which has been removing what it deems to be hate speech from its platform. Facebook recently introduced a tool that allows its users to block or reduce the number of political ads on its platform and Instagram. In its announcement, Facebook said any political ads will be required to have disclaimers indicating who produced and paid for them. 

In its latest response to the advertising exodus, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that they would continue to leave up some posts that violate Facebook policy if the “public interest value outweighs the risk of harm.” Zuckerberg added that they will alert readers that the post may violate their policies.

Other Effects

Companies like Gap, which are already progressive, upped their diversity efforts with the announcement that it will aim to double its Latino and Black representation in the company and increase African-Americans on its store manager staff 50% by 2025. Levi Straus said it will be taking immediate action to raise its diversification. The company also admitted that only 2% of its executive and just 5% of corporate staff are Black which it labelled “dire misrepresentation.”

With more than five million downloads and 350 million players, Fortnite is one of the most popular online games globally. In response to the debate over law-enforcement practices, the company announced that it was removing police cars from its game.

Some of the brands have removed images thought to be derogatory from their products. Others, including professional and college sports teams are considering the same. Another previous article discussed actions some companies are taking to address inequities and heighten awareness within their companies.

With important elections approaching on both the national and state levels, discussion about equality will likely continue to dominate many headlines and community discussions. Brands can get ahead of the curve by polling both its consumers as well as its employees and performing its own internal cultural audit. The latter would look at its diversity within the organization’s workforce as well as its management and board of directors.

Such actions could be critical in moving forward. Recent revelations about how a Gen Z group created attendance chaos on TikTok by registering for President Trump’s campaign rally in Oklahoma are indicative of the changing values in our younger generation. According to online marketing company, 99Firms, Generation Z (born 1997 through 2012) already influences $600 billion in family spending and will make up 40% of all U.S. consumers by the end of this year.

As importantly, considering today’s climate, nearly half of the population in the U.S. (47%) is made up of Generation Z. Companies that aren’t adjusting to this may see negative impacts on their bottom lines and workforce.