July boycott: Marketing without Facebook Ads

Alternative media plan considerations for businesses participating in #StopHateForProfit.

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Prominent brands and civil rights groups are leading the charge for a July 2020 boycott of Facebook Ads. They want to see changes implemented to the platform and are organizing under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit. 

Whatever your views on these issues, it’s important to make an informed decision about how your business will approach this boycott. We offer you inspiration for an alternative media plan if you do decide to divert funds from Facebook Ads. 

Facebook Ads-free July media plan

Here are some media planning ideas to help shift advertising dollars while continuing to drive momentum with marketing efforts in July. In general, keep in mind testing of new tactics and platforms can take time to build traction — allow for leeway on performance targets. Also, remember Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook and aren’t viable alternatives if you want to fully participate in the boycott. 

Example media plan: DTC beauty brand

The following hypothetical direct-to-consumer (DTC) beauty brand caters to a younger female demographic. 


The objective for this section of your media plan is to reach net-new customers.

Connect prospecting/awareness tactics to conversion tactics

Before you get started, make sure your prospecting tactics have a clear path toward supporting bottom-of-funnel conversions. Here are a few ways to do this: 

  • Ask an SEO professional to help optimize your PR and social content so that you retain lasting value from your PR efforts. They can also provide baseline brand search volume reporting. That way, you can anecdotally measure increased brand search volume — and thus brand awareness and conversion intent resulting from all these upper-funnel tactics. 
  • Coordinate with your paid media team to ensure you have the proper pixels on your site to reap the benefits of growing your site retargeting audience list and conversion campaigns. 
  • Sync with your email team to drive email sign-ups from site traffic generated by awareness tactics. This will fuel both your email marketing and custom audience lists to give conversion-focused paid media retargeting a boost.

PR and organic social

Share that you’re supporting the #StopHateForProfit movement and diverting some or all of your ad budget to supporting the cause. You may just wind up with the same (or better) reach than you otherwise would from Facebook Ads. 

Snapchat and TikTok

Because this example beauty brand is targeting Millennials and Gen Z, Snapchat and TikTok are good options. Both have self-serve platforms that are easy to use for those already familiar with Facebook Ads Manager. 

Snapchat users are primarily Millennials, and the experience is similar to Instagram Stories. Some advertisers have seen efficient CPMs on Snapchat Ads by utilizing trending hashtags. A newer option is Snapchat’s Dynamic Ads, which create personalized ads for either prospects or site visitors who have shown interest in specific products on your site. This is billed as a “direct response” tactic, but overall, we would consider Snapchat an upper-funnel tactic.

TikTok skews toward Gen Z and the platform’s videos tend to be edited and lip-synced, aiming to provide lighthearted entertainment. Core features of both apps focus on user-generated content. Brands are seeing success garnering reach and awareness through hashtag challenges on TikTok.

In-app programmatic

In the world of programmatic advertising, mobile in-app advertising has been gaining traction due to higher engagement rates and more precise targeting, particularly with a growing mobile gaming audience among women. For this beauty brand example, we evaluated MoPub with its reach of 1.4 billion devices. It is good for promoting influencer-generated videos, as well as leveraging native ads to drive more awareness or even prospects to the site.

YouTube In-Stream Ads

With 2 billion users, YouTube is an excellent channel to drive awareness. Advertising on YouTube can be done through the Google Ads platform. For this beauty brand, we recommend affinity targeting, custom intent, in-market targeting, video remarketing, and similar audiences (lookalike) targeting. When testing out YouTube, it is important to note that the definitions for video metrics such as video views and impressions are drastically different between YouTube and Facebook, so it may not be as easy to draw a direct comparison.  


The objective for this section of your media plan is to build intent among those who are familiar with your brand.

Email & organic social

Share messaging to convey you’re supporting the #StopHateForProfit movement, pausing Facebook Ads and if applicable, donating to important causes or taking other concrete actions like improving diversity on your board or leadership team. 

Influencer marketing

If your brand has not worked with influencers, now may be the time. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 4 out of 5 brands surveyed intend to dedicate budget to influencer marketing in 2020. For this DTC beauty brand example, we recommend working with beauty influencers ranging from micro-influencers to mid-tier influencers to diversify target audience segments and experiment with different content formats to increase intent. Be sure to review reporting to avoid influencer fraud.

Pinterest (organic)

With Pinterest’s inspirational and trend-driven content, 73% of Pinners say they have purchased something after seeing it on Pinterest. Big beauty brands like L’Oréal Paris have been leveraging Pinterest since 2015 and have a steady 10M+ monthly followers. We recommend this example beauty brand establish an organic presence on Pinterest for increasing brand recall and driving intent. 

Direct media buys

Direct buying with highly relevant websites is a good way to establish a strong brand image. Direct buys can guarantee premium ad placements and allow creativity in terms of content formats. For this beauty example, we’ll test a takeover and submit sponsored content on HarpersBazaar.com and Elle.com. Remember to negotiate a bundle deal with cheaper rates and added value by choosing multiple publishers owned by the same holding company. 


The objective for this section of your media plan is to drive sales and re-engage customers.


Having first laid a strong foundation and rapport sharing messaging about your brand’s commitment to action with causes like #BlackLivesMatter and #StopHateForProfit, it may next be appropriate to layer in a cadence of promotional messaging, especially if you have a sale or product launch to highlight. 

Pinterest Shoppable Ads

If you do advertise on Pinterest, try Shoppable Pins (only available on some product categories) and site Retargeting. From the upper-funnel recommendations, you should have built up a solid audience list to draw from. 


SEO is a long-game tactic and likely won’t offer immediate returns in July. But, the combination of tactics may create a lift in brand search volume, which will pay off over time. Make sure your site is fully SEO-optimized. Don’t miss out on valuable demand you’ve created with previous efforts. If you haven’t conducted an SEO audit in the past 6-12 months, now is a good time to do it, especially if you have unspent Facebook Ads budget to invest. 

Google Ads + RLSA/Remarketing

Having grown your audience list sizes from the upper-funnel tactics mentioned previously, give your search campaign a power boost. Pair Dynamic Search Ads with RLSA on top of your regular search campaigns. Run a Google Display Network campaign with remarketing lists. Make sure you’ve got strong coverage on brand terms with the additional brand search volume you’ve hopefully generated.

Google Shopping

Google recently started listing products for free in the Google Shopping tab, which opens up about 5% of available traffic without the cost-per-click. If you have not set up a Google Merchant Center account and a product feed for your online store, this is a great time to do so. If you’re looking for an alternative revenue stream to replace Facebook, you may want to start looking into paid Google Shopping ads. If you need to get up-and-running quickly, a Google Smart Shopping campaign is easy to set up.

Media planning for B2B advertisers

It may be easier for B2B brands to participate in the boycott, as they’re generally less dependent on Facebook Ads to begin with. 

For B2B, LinkedIn would be the obvious choice to shift dollars, especially with the recently released targeting functionality. Some of the above DTC tactics could be adapted to a B2B media plan. Other B2B platforms to evaluate would be podcast advertising, Twitter Ads, Quora Ads, sponsored content and, depending on who your audience is, you may want to test direct buys with more technical platforms like Stack Overflow. 

Supporting the cause without boycotting Facebook Ads

If you want to contribute to the cause, but aren’t in a position to pause Facebook Ads, here are some other things you can do:

  1. Improve the diversity pipeline in technology and digital media: It’s hard for teams with diverse perspectives to stray into discriminatory territory in the first place. One easy way to do this is to support organizations that foster a diverse talent pipeline like COOP Careers, which helps Black, LatinX and first-generation college graduates launch careers in digital marketing and analytics. Use this link to have your COOP Careers donation matched by my agency, Apiary Digital (up to $5K in total matching).
  2. Hire a more diverse executive and leadership team: Take action on changes Black and minority professionals are asking for, outlined in this letter by 600 & Rising.
  3. Donate to nonprofits that support critical #BlackLivesMatter initiatives. Consider reducing Facebook Ads spend by a small amount and donating the difference to a related cause.

With tactical adjustments during the month of July, your brand can help make a difference in supporting the #StopHateForProfit movement.   

Thank you to Apiary consultant, Lillian Barclay, for her contributions to this article. 

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Karen Amundson
Founder and CEO of Apiary Digital, a marketing collective. Passionate about performance marketing and structuring high impact, lifestyle-friendly teams of specialized experts.

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