Honda Canada and Volkswagen Canada are the latest auto companies to cease advertising on Facebook. Ford Canada made a similar decision last week.
“For the month of July, Honda Canada will withhold its paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram from all of its brands, including Honda Auto, Acura, Power Sports and Power Equipment. We choose to stand with people united against hate and racism,” Honda Canada said in a statement. “This is in alignment with our company’s values, which are grounded in human respect.”
The statement ends with the hashtag #StopHateForProfit.
Volkswagen Canada made a similar — more pointed — statement July 1 on Facebook and it hasn’t posted on the social media juggernaut since.
“As we focus on improving practices within our organization, we are increasingly aware that where we spend our marketing dollars has an impact. We do not support individuals or organizations that promote racism and hate,” VW Canada said. “VW believes in freedom of expression. But hate speech and misinformation should not go unchecked. We expect our advertising partners to reflect our values, and Volkswagen – as well as other companies – must hold them to the same standards we demand of ourselves.
“Volkswagen is engaging with Facebook leadership to understand how they intend to rein in the hate speech, racism and misinformation that has gone largely unchecked on their social platforms.”
The three Canadian arms of the automakers follow the lead of their American counterparts, perhaps making recovering from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic a little harder during the short-term.
Ford Motor Co., Honda North America Inc. and Volkswagen Group of America all vowed last month to drop paid Facebook advertisements for about 30 days, voluntarily giving up a key piece of their digital ad strategies as they try to bounce back from dismal second-quarter sales. The trio of automakers is among dozens of advertisers across multiple industries that have said they are boycotting the social media giant for failing to prevent the spread of disinformation and hate speech.
Honda and VW specifically called out Facebook and Instagram, saying they would drop advertising for the month of July. Ford said it would halt paid advertising on all social media channels for 30 days, starting Tuesday, June 30, even as it prepares to launch the Bronco SUV and Bronco Sport crossover in a few weeks.
Lara Koslow, managing director at Boston Consulting Group, said taking such a stand, especially in a challenging sales environment, could have a short-term impact on a company's bottom line. But she believes those involved in the boycott could benefit in the long run.
"You have to sometimes make hard choices to make sure your brand is aligned to that value statement you proclaim to customers," she told Automotive News. "Customers are smart. They see what companies do and what they say and whether those are aligned."
Ford, in a statement, said hate speech, violence and racial injustice in social media content need "to be eradicated."
The self-imposed ban comes at an especially challenging time for Ford, which is preparing for one of its most anticipated reveals in recent memory. Aside from the Bronco, it's preparing to launch other high-profile vehicles, including the redesigned F-150 pickup and new Mustang Mach-E electric crossover.
NO LACK OF OUTLETS
Still, Koslow noted Ford won't be lacking for outlets to promote its vehicles.
"There are a lot of organic posts," she said, referring to nonpaid social media advertisements as well as free exposure from news outlets. She also said current advertisements could continue to have an effect even after Ford cuts them off.
"If you've had media on Facebook for many years, you're going to get some halo effect for that for several weeks," she said. "You've turned it off, but you've been investing for some time on that platform. In the long term, it could impact the brand, but in the short term, it has a little less impact."
She said the move could be challenging, though, considering consumers are spending more time online even as some states begin to reopen following prolonged shutdowns due to the pandemic.
Pete Petersen, CEO of Dealers United, which runs dealership advertising on Facebook, said none of the company's dealership clients has requested to stop its Facebook promotions. He added that some have asked for clarity about automakers' positions.
Petersen said the company has advised dealerships to determine for themselves whether they support the cause that has prompted brands to pause their Facebook marketing and want to do the same. For dealerships that choose to stay the course, he said, fewer companies paying to show up on Facebook will make it a more affordable time to advertise on the social media giant.
"I don't see Tier 3 really being affected right now, based on the initial observations," he said. "But this is day by day."
Lindsay VanHulle of Automotive News and Greg Layson of Automotive News Canada contributed to this report.