Brand Strategy

Lush Cosmetics slashes ad spend on Google as part of Big Tech cuts

The brand plans to cut a third of its ad spending across the five Big Tech companies.
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Lush via YouTube

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Cosmetics brand Lush Cosmetics announced earlier this month that it would slash its ad spending with Big Tech companies, citing concerns around their “ethical credentials.”

During the brand’s SXSW activation, Lush Chief Digital Officer Jack Constantine explained why the company is cutting its spending with Big Tech companies, including Google, by a third.

“We’re spending millions on Google Ads to protect our trademark, but ultimately they don’t value protecting trademarks, so why should we be spending that money there?” Constantine said.

The reduction in Google Ads spending is part of the company’s larger goal to cut its Big Tech spending, he said, due to concerns over how these platforms have become increasingly focused on advertising over the years.

“We want to focus on creating community and engagement. In the beginning, social media fit with us perfectly…However, as everyone has seen it transition over time, it’s become more of an advertising outlet, and that isn’t something that we personally as Lush feel comfortable with.”

He pointed to recent controversies, such as when Meta whistleblower Frances Haugen went public with concerns about what she said were ethical issues at the company in 2021. “How comfortable are we being on a platform like that, where it’s not necessarily safe for teenagers or for people to be on if they end up down the algorithms and the rabbit holes that can be presented to them?” he said.

Aside from Google, he did not single out which other platforms the company plans to pull ad spend from, though the company has taken a stand against Big Tech in the past. In 2021, Lush stopped operating its Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat accounts, saying it wouldn’t return “until the platforms take action to provide a safer environment for their users,” according to its website. At the time, Lush said it would still maintain accounts on Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter.

A number of major businesses have, at least temporarily, pulled ad spend from major platforms in recent years. Several companies paused advertising on Facebook and Instagram in July 2020 as part of the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign led by a coalition of civil rights organizations including the Anti-Defamation League; many have since returned (some, including Patagonia, have not). The campaign formed in response to concerns around the lack of regulation of hate speech on large social media platforms.

According to a recent study by Lush, seven in 10 adults across the UK, the US, and Japan “believe that if a social media platform is unethical, then brands should step away from it.”

“We are prioritizing a move away from the Big Tech giants such as Meta in favor of smaller, more agile, open-source communities,” Constantine wrote in the report.

It remains to be seen what effect Lush cutting ad spend on Big Tech platforms will be, but “we’ve never been big advertisers,” Constantine said.

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