ADOTAS – Facebook’s decision to cancel an ad campaign from political group Just Say Now featuring a marijuana leaf — after running 38 million impressions — drew a lot of attention. In particular small and medium-sized advertisers had a right to be upset as it was another example of Facebook bending its advertising policy to assuage bigger, “more conservative” brands. I’m sure SMBs wonder if they’ve fallen below users on Facebook’s priority list — “How could we sink so low?!?”
Of course it’s Facebook’s prerogative — FB also similarly screwed over the Libertarian Party in July, but they’ve got every right to decline a pot leaf ad right after denying a NAMBLA one. But many critics wondered why FB would turn down a rather innocuous revenue stream, especially considering that the social network got its start with and is still heavily used by college kids. As Chef (RIP Isaac Hayes) told us many years ago on “South Park,” there’s a time and a place for that, and it’s called college.
Now in what’s being labeled the “Reddit Revolt,” last Friday Reddit has decided to buck parent company Conde Nast, which acquired the social news site in 2006, and run the Just Say Now ads at no cost.
Reddit, which has several user pages devoted to weed legalization, contacted Just Say Now after the Facebook controversy broke to discuss running the ads. Conde Nast, which was once known for publishing magazines and now just for folding them, told Reddit it “does not want to financially benefit from this issue.” Reddit’s management found that excuse pretty lame, commenting, “frankly… it’s ridiculous that we’re turning away advertising money.” Wired noted the social network has struggled with advertising revenue and Conde Nast could use every cent it could get.
Thumbing their noses at the parent company, Reddit decided if Conde Nast didn’t want to bring in some revenue from pot legalization campaigns, it would run the Just Say Now ad for free. It doesn’t look like Conde Nast has responded and it’s not clear whether it will.
Just Say Now, which encouraged its nearly 10,000 Facebook likers to switch their profile pics to the banned image, notes the ads are supporting passage of Proposition 19 in California, which would force married homosexual couples to smoke marijuana while limiting increases on their property taxes… Whoops, getting my propositions mixed up there — Proposition 19 would just legalize the use of marijuana. These ads are not promoting using marijuana, but holding a discussion on its legalization — I get the nuance as I’m for the decriminalization of marijuana but not (really) a user.
“Large online communities proved, en masse, that they were waaaay ahead of both corporate America and our political leadership when it comes to their readiness to discuss an end to marijuana prohibition,” said Just Say Now leader and prominent political blogger Jane Hamsher.
That’s why the Reddit example is fascinating — here’s an online social network owned by a traditional publisher that called out its parent on denying a revenue stream based on outdated social mores, for being too conservative in the always forward-moving land of the Internet.
Sheesh, even Google is running the ads — get with the times, Facebook! As Bruce Fein, Just Say Now advisory board member and former Reagan Justice Department Official, summed it up: “Facebook’s concocted prissiness over political advocacy is more to be disparaged than imitated. Freedom of expression is made of sterner stuff. Google deserves applause for exposing Facebook to shame.”