Media Watch: In the Social-Media Age, Are Ad Boycotts Effective?

Samsung phone on a keyboard. The screen reads: "I am here!"

Samsung phone on a keyboard. The screen reads: "I am here!"With all the social media channels available to us, campaigns by angered consumers calling for companies to stop advertising on websites that provide content they deem controversial or that they disagree with — ad boycotts — have become pretty frequent. Over the course of the last year, consumers have successfully pressured several brands to reconsider their advertising placement. But according to a recent Wall Street Journal story, these boycotts haven’t usually lasted that long. Some even ended in weeks.

Experts say companies can’t afford to pass up advertising opportunities, especially on Google and Facebook — sites that have been targeted for boycotts.

So why do they try at all?

Historically, corporations have rarely bowed to public pressure from consumers. But that has changed over the past decade or so as our political climate has become more polarized, Drexel University’s Daniel Korschun, PhD, told The Wall Street Journal. According to Korshun, who is an associate professor of marketing in the LeBow College of Business, many consumers now use politics to define themselves and they expect a company’s values to align with their own—and that extends to the platforms on which a company runs its advertising.

Some have stuck to the boycott. According to the article, JPMorgan Chase & Co. earlier this year developed its own tool to ensure that its ads on Youtube won’t appear next to objectionable material. However, since there is currently no technology that can be used to effectively eliminate objectionable pairings, experts expect the brand-safety issues to continue.

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