Facebook ad revenue in 2020 will grow 4.9% despite the growing number of brands pulling campaigns

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Facebook's ad revenue will continue to increase this year, despite the growing number of brands pulling ad campaigns amid the coronavirus pandemic. Net US digital ad revenues at Facebook (including all owned and operated properties as well as Facebook Audience Network) will increase by 4.9% this year to $31.43 billion – about $4.82 billion less than eMarketer predicted in early March.

Additionally, more brands are pulling ad spend from Facebook for the month of July in support of #StopHateForProfit, a campaign sponsored by nonprofits like the NAACP in protest of what they call Facebook's failure to remove hate speech and misinformation from its platform. While these moves are unlikely to make a dent in Facebook's ad business, the campaign's potentially broad uptake could lead to more pressure from consumers in the future about companies' ad spending practices.

Since this campaign only asks brands to pause — rather than end — ad spend, it's likely that brands participating won't end up quitting the platform in the long term. We've written in recent weeks about Facebook's resilience to past scandals and how the company's reach makes it difficult to quit the platform for good: "Many marketers just want to find the best value for their ad dollars, and Facebook's targeting and broad reach make it a necessary part of their ad buy," said eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson. Even during a pandemic, we expect the company's ad revenues to grow almost 5%. 

While Facebook will likely emerge unscathed, support for the campaign could shift consumer expectations of brands' ad spending practices. Earlier this month, we covered consumers' growing desire to see brands taking action during the Black Lives Matter protests, such as making donations or commitments to more diverse hiring practices. But Facebook's controversial stance on US President Donald Trump's comments about the protests have brought ad spending into the conversation for some brands, too.

There's been a similar brand flight on TV: Two weeks ago, Disney, T-Mobile, and Papa John's pulled advertising during Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News after Carlson made comments against the Black Lives Matter movement. But Fox hosts like Carlson have lost advertisers in recent years, only to have them quietly return once the storm has blown over. Still, if this campaign is able to call mass attention to how companies' ad spend can inadvertently support causes that the company disavows, we could see more pressure on brands to alter their ad spending in the future. 

Meanwhile, competitors Amazon and Google are also seeing a shift in ad revenue. Google will see its U.S. digital ad revenue fall more than 5% this year – a massive shift from eMarketer's pre-COVID estimate that its ad revenue would increase 13% in 2020. And while Amazon's ad revenue will continue to increase, its growth is significantly lower than earlier estimates. Amazon's net US digital ad revenues is forecasted to grow  23.5%  to $12.75 billion, a decrease of about $920 million from eMarleter's earlier forecast.

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