First Direct and Virgin pull Facebook ads

A social media story that got a lot of coverage yesterday was about big brands such as First Direct and Virgin Mobile pulling their adverts from Facebook because they appeared on a page for a group supporting the far-right British National Party.

This highlights both one of the strengths and weaknesses of businesses and brands using and participating in new social media. The weakness is that it is so new and changing so rapidly that mistakes are inevitable, but fortune favours the brave and it is those companies that are willing to lead and experiment that will benefit most. A strength is that it is possible to react very quickly in the best way:

“First Direct also signalled likely changes towards a more sophisticated way of advertising on the internet. The banking and insurance firm’s spokesman, Rob Skinner, said: “We are obviously concerned about where our advertising appears. We have got to make sure that the places we advertise are consistent with our own values and identity.”

However, it’s also interesting that none of the brands affected appear to have talked to customers via Facebook.

XP: Wolfstar Pack Blog

UPDATE: More comment on Stephen Waddington’s Tech PR Blog and John Dodds on Make Marketing History. I agree with John’s line about the danger of automated systems, but not about his fear of “losing control of your message” as that’s the perspective of an ad guy and if you’re going to have genuine conversations you’re never going to control your message.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.