COVID-19 Update: Ford Halts Social Media Campaigns

By Desiree Homer

And Joins a List of Brands Pulling Away from Facebook

Social responsibility is just good business. And recently, Ford announced it would be suspending all of its social media ad spend for the next 30 days. The move may have more than one catalyst. But the blue oval automaker now joins a long list of business entities that have pulled campaigns from Facebook in support of a movement that publicly called on the platform to do more to address the spread of hate messaging. Reading beyond the headlines, dealers may be wondering if they should be following suit.

The area can be gray for some and decisively a no-brainer for others. The key is following the pace of your community and finding the path that makes business and ethical sense for your store. Mike Darrow, President of the Russ Darrow Group, shares insights about keeping the community connection, in a recent episode of the Dealer News Today podcast. “There is nothing we can’t or won’t do,” Darrow says, and locals are still welcome at his dealership’s Friday Fish Fry events.

Ford Hitting Pause on Social Media

Ford Motor Co. announced that it would take a 30-day reprieve from social media advertising. The company spokesperson said the plan would entail a complete re-evaluation of online and social brand presence. Content that promotes any suggestion of support for hate, violence, or injustice, “needs to be eradicated.” In light of the recent calls for action, and the movement to create equality, many companies have already begun to shift brand messaging and advertising efforts to show support for anti-hate sentiments.

Other Automakers Have Already Pulled Ads

Volkswagen Group of America announced last Tuesday it too would be pulling Instagram and Facebook ads for July. Similar to the Ford message, Volkswagen shared it intends to assess their communications strategy. Even Honda Motor Co. here in the states put out a statement indicating it would stop ads with the popular social media platform for the month of July to re-evaluate its partnerships. As ad campaign boycotts continue to grow, within the auto industry and beyond, dealers wonder if they, too, need to align their social responsibility efforts with the movement.

Dealerships Rely on Social Media Engagement

When the big companies pull their ad budgets, it certainly makes a statement. However, at the dealership or dealer group level, does it make sense to follow suit? After all, social media has been a lifeline for many dealer owners in navigating profitability through the pandemic. But now there is a public outcry of support for the equality movement. There is no clear-cut answer for dealerships in general. But your answer may lie within your backyard and can be determined based on the needs and support requirements of your community. Facebook and Instagram still continue to be resourceful platforms to reach local audiences. Your dealership may still be able to leverage its reach, without directly or indirectly promoting injustice. Alternatively, if social responsibility in your markets is the priority conversation within those communities, taking an active support role may be warranted.

The goal is to operate your business with a sense of moral and social responsibility to those within your community who make up your target market. People will buy cars from companies that support them. Only those dealers who continue to recognize the needs of their customers will continue to thrive.