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PepsiCo will return to social media advertising when they better manage hate speech: CFO

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·3 mins read

PepsiCo (PEP) is getting its message across loud and clear that social media sites need to clean up their act on everything from diversity to hate speech on their platforms.

“We have not joined the [Facebook] boycott but what we have done is announced that we’re suspending social media advertising for a period of time. I believe it ends in July,” PepsiCo vice chairman and CFO Hugh Johnston said on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. Johnston is a former Twitter board member and currently sits on the board at Microsoft.

Johnston continued, “It’s less around timeframe and more around the actions that need to happen. What we’re dealing with simply is this. If you think about the business we’re in, we do supply people with little bits of joy in their day. Just smiles. That’s the way we tend to think about it. What we don’t want to do is take the products that we have that bring smiles to people’s faces and have them positioned right against some of the challenging things that are on social media right now. Obviously as a company we are in favor of free speech, but some of the things on social media are really inconsistent with the way we were looking to position our brand. As they do a better job with managing that, you’ll see us come back to social media. But the time being, we said we’re going to pull back on that.”

The Pepsi logo is seen on a delivery truck Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
The Pepsi logo is seen on a delivery truck Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Johnston confirmed PepsiCo has just pulled back from Facebook advertising, and is “evaluating” the rest of its spending on social media. PepsiCo is one of the biggest consumer goods marketers around, with an annual budget reportedly more than $2.5 billion.

Other big spenders have gotten their message across, too.

Unilever, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, HP Inc., and Yahoo Finance parent company Verizon have revealed plans over the past month to pause advertising spend on Facebook’s platforms until founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg lays out clear-cut measures to improve content policing. Thus far, well-defined measures by Facebook have been few and far between, sources have told Yahoo Finance.

“It’s a major wake-up call for Facebook. I think they’ll rally to the challenge. If they don’t, we’ll visit them soon in the graveyard of dinosaurs,” said Unilever’s former long-time CEO Paul Polman, now speaking as the co-founder of Imagine, on The First Trade.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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