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Marketing Briefing: ‘Not a hypothetical problem’: ANA CEO Bob Liodice on why there needs to be a unified effort to combat hate speech

Illustration of a blue fire hydrant spraying water.

Last October, Pernod Ricard’s CMO Pam Forbus unveiled a new initiative, #EngageResponsibly, that aimed to curb hate speech online.

As Forbus told Digiday then, the initiative, which was backed by the Global Alliance for Responsible Media and the Association of National Advertisers, was a way to keep the momentum going past the initial Facebook boycott last July as advertisers took stock of their place in the landscape. The aim of the initiative was to get a dataset on hate speech online that would allow marketers to make informed decisions on where to spend their ad dollars and to eventually stand up a non-profit effort co-led by brands.

This week, GARM and the ANA announced they are working with Pernod Ricard to scale that initiative working with brands and social platforms as well as small and medium-sized businesses. To get a sense of how that will work and what to expect, Digiday caught up with ANA CEO Bob Liodice.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

What have the results of #EngageResponsibly been so far to prove out expanding it?

Fighting online hate speech is a movement, not a moment. Our foundational first steps in creating this movement were to convene industry leaders, align on a vision and plan, and design the first phase of the education rollout. Those first steps are what we’re announcing today.

With the foundation in place, we are now in the mobilization and building phase. This includes outreach to the NGOs and organizations that represent both SMBs and the voices of consumers, issuing the pledge and engaging big brands, and taking #EngageResponsibly live via the education campaign. At the same time, GARM is collaborating with NGOs to corroborate the measures for hate speech and its prevalence, which we will use to ensure #EngageResponsibly places the needs of consumers and SMBs at the center of all we do. 

Why expand it now?

Online hate speech is not a hypothetical problem. Every day, thousands of hate-fueled conversations happen on social media. According to ADL, 35% of Americans have experienced online hate due to racial, religious, or sexual identity. And a recent report from GLAAD shows that an astonishing 64% of all LGBTQ social media users have experienced harassment and hate speech. 

As advertisers, we cannot ask people to engage with us on social platforms and then absolve ourselves of accountability for the hate they may experience there. But we also know that we alone cannot solve this problem. That’s why we’ve built #EngageResponsibly to empower all key stakeholders — big brands, platforms, SMBs, consumers and the organizations who represent their voices — to play their part in drastically reducing online hate by 2025. 

What does that expansion actually look like? Are you going to be giving marketers a toolkit of sorts? Some best practices to curb hate speech?

Expanding #EngageResponsibly to an industry-wide initiative will allow us to leverage the power and reach of major marketers and platforms to empower SMBs and consumers to join us in our efforts to combat online hate speech. #EngageResponsibly will give marketers, SMBs and consumers the tools to take action and create demonstrable change. 

For marketers of all sizes, participating in #EngageResponsibly gives them a critical opportunity to take actions that increase the safety and inclusivity of the social environments in which they engage with their consumers.  Led by the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), marketers and brands of all sizes will soon be able to sign a pledge that publicly declares their commitment to drastically reducing online hate speech by 2025. Marketers will receive a toolkit on how to deliver on commitments they are pledging to in combating online hate speech, including how to amplify the tools and messaging of #EngageResponsibly through branded campaigns to maximize consumer and SMB engagement. SMBs will also receive tailored tools and resources to help them meet the responsible marketing guidelines established by GARM and followed by many big brands in ways that are easy to implement and cost-effective. 

To inspire consumer action, #EngageResponsibly will educate individuals on how to drive responsible online discourse; how to identify hate when they see it; and when and how to report online hate incidents using platform tools. Big brands have a huge role to play in amplifying this effort.

The goal of #EngageResponsibly seems to be getting a dataset on hate speech online that allows marketers to make informed decisions on where to spend their ad dollars. Yet at the same time, #EngageResponsibly will be working with the same platforms where that hate speech happens/where marketers would pull ad dollars from due to hate speech so I’m curious: Has the goal changed or if marketers are able to push back more to the platforms on how they are dealing with hate? 

We recognize that social platforms have been part of the problem when it comes to the spread of online hate speech. The issue, however, is far-reaching and complex– no single institution or industry can tackle it alone.  If we are going to drastically reduce online hate speech by 2025, we need an all-in approach that brings together each of the critical actors to take positive, collective action, together.  That’s why the goal of #EngageResponsibly is to harness the power and reach of social media platforms and big brands, along with NGOs and institutions,  to engage and empower small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and consumers through education and action.

The Wall Street Journal has unveiled new information about Facebook in its investigation. I’m wondering how the marketers are thinking about that and if this new initiative could help combat those issues on Facebook and Instagram? 

The goal of #EngageResponsibly is to drastically reduce online hate speech by 2025. The issues of content availability and algorithmic transparency are also pressing concerns for many industry stakeholders — not just the advertisers who are involved with #EngageResponsibly. Through GARM, the industry continues to scale conversations and activities with civil society groups and via other public-private initiatives to address the range of issues that must be tackled to ensure social media spaces are safe and inclusive for all users.

By the numbers

The surge in online shopping, ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With the holiday season just around the corner, marketers expect retail sales to continue climbing. However, vaccine rollout and mask mandates have helped to reopen some in-person shopping. That, along with increased concerns around data privacy, marketers are looking at what that means for the future of online shopping. New research from performance marketing platform Smartly.io reveals many will continue current online shopping behaviors even in light of changes. Find a breakdown of the data points below:

  • 87% of respondents said they plan to continue shopping online, despite eased restrictions and physical retailers re-opening. 
  • 44% said they discovered a new product or brand based on a digital ad they saw on social media in the past 30 days alone.
  • 74% said they are more receptive to digital ads from brands when it is clear how their data is being used. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“When it comes to email marketing, this move puts a proverbial nail in the coffin for email open rates.”

— Greg Zakowicz, director of content at Omnisend, an email marketing and SMS platform, on the impact of iOS15 on email marketing.

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