Apr 19, 2021

April Update: Facebook, Greenwashing, and Vaccines

As we mark Earth Day on April 22, this mid-month update also comes to you just about one year after the COVID-19 pandemic hit our lives. Looking back at our news review from April 2020, you’d be forgiven for detecting some innocence in how we were being charmed by the creativity of people being creative on TikTok and in their careers, and how dating sites and multi-player games were booming, with no sense of how the rest of the year would unfold during the year to follow. By July we were able to paint a picture of just how our DMI members were coping with the pandemic, in their work and home lives, the results of which you can see in our white paper from the survey. 

Vaccine Misinformation

April Update: Facebook, Greenwashing, and Vaccines

In April 2021 the global conversation is centered around vaccines: the complexity of their rollout in different countries, the successes and difficulties, and, of course, the role the digital world plays -  including the advent of scammers dealing in vaccine cards. The US vaccine program of the last few months has been widely lauded - its average of 3 million shots administered per day in early April making it the envy of many other countries. But it can take just one source of false information (i.e. one conspiracy theorist) to cause chaos, as has happened with concerns arising over the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “In most cases, the social media companies say they can't do much to respond in cases such as this, since people largely are sharing articles based on factual information, even if the commentary and subtext around the posting is meant to further false ideas.” Read the full story on NPR and have a look at our case study on how J&J have tackled their own failures in the past.

Greenwashing in Fashion

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Swedish fast fashion giant H&M is regularly criticized for issues regarding climate change, as well as workers rights and protection. Recently it has seen its sustainability initiatives come under even closer scrutiny with its partnership with Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams. She will feature in various initiatives as a 3D avatar: “A digital Maisie will also star in H&M Loop Island, which will become part of Nintendo’s game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, in a bid to encourage players to recycle and learn about circularity.” Criticized across social media as greenwashing, H&M and the fashion industry are just one sector under scrutiny and pressure to show more brand authenticity. The oil industry and Wall Street are facing ongoing criticism, with the Biden administration being called upon to act, during the run up to Earth Day on April 22. In an earlier DMI article, we outline 4 steps to help offer lasting sustainability initiatives, with the aim of gaining customer trust.

Facebook in the News

April Update: Facebook, Greenwashing, and Vaccines

No stranger to the news cycle, there seem to have been more stories about Facebook than usual lately.

Facebook is facing a mass-action lawsuit in the European Union over the massive data breach of over 500,000 accounts - an event which has only come to light now though it occurred in 2019. Advocacy group, Digital Rights Ireland, is leading the action, with the intent of hitting Facebook where it hurts - financially. Another Ireland-based story is how political party Sinn Fein has been accused of harvesting followers’ personal data from Facebook.  

Facebook quietly announced this month that as of June 30 2021 Facebook Analytics will no longer be available. The platform is pointing users to Facebook Business Suite, Ads Manager, and Events Manager. This change will be no huge loss as FB Analytics never managed to be very useful for anyone already serious about their statistics. "Marketers will have to rely on Facebook-specific performance data, but the important point is that marketers will need to figure out their own individual solutions and rely on first-party data and DMPs to reach their customers," said Sam Huston, of marketing agency 3Q Digital quoted on AdExchanger.

Facebook are considering allowing Instagram users to choose if they want to see Likes. We took a closer look at the rationale behind removing Likes when the idea was first rolled out on Instagram in 2020. This CNN story includes a clip looking at real-life scenarios of how likes can make or break a restaurant. 

One positive story is that Facebook have now reached their target of 100% renewable energy for their operations, with net zero emissions. Read on.  

April Fooled ya

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On April 1st, many online players continued their attitude from a year ago, shying away from marking April Fools’ Day: indeed, Google declared they were cancelling it. This is understandable as many consumers may well confuse fact with fiction, given the strange times we have been living in. But we did spot a few notable efforts to prank us and give us a laugh. There was the sit-squat desk, the all-blue jigsaw puzzle, the jerky-scented cologne, and the Canadian Space Agency’s discovery of all the odd socks on the moon. But the winner has to be Lego, with their “smart bricks” clip bound to appeal to the heart of any modern parent. Read more about Lego in our case study

In Brief

  • Ireland has led the way this month in introducing a “right to disconnect” - a policy which is sure to ease challenges faced by many who continue to work remotely and which is being considered by Canada and other countries. Guardian.
  • Chinese eCommerce giant AliBaba has seen a serious knock to its fortunes recently, with governmental criticism and fines. BBC.
  • Instagram has come under fire for considering a version aimed at children under 13. BBC
  • People have been talking about NFT - Non-fungible tokens -  the latest thing in the blockchain world. Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, made a fortune when he sold his very first tweet as an NFT. The Verge.
  • On April 25th this year’s Oscars ceremony will be an “inside-outside” event held at the iconic Union Station in Los Angeles. As tired of Zoom as the rest of us, the organizers initially insisted all attendees be there in person, but the small matter of a 10-day local quarantine rule in Los Angeles and the larger matter of managing non-American nominees and guests meant that it will now be a “virtual-physical” event.  
  • Meanwhile in the world’s sitting rooms, one of the most popular shows this year on Netflix - Seaspiracy - has created its own cloud of controversy, with many accusing it of misinformation. For digital marketers it does stir up some interesting questions around brand authenticity, ethical marketing and transparency. Can words like “sustainable” really be used in campaigns without accompanying context? Guardian.

And, Finally

The extraordinary story of the Ever Given cargo ship becoming stuck diagonally in the Suez Canal for 9 days produced some memorable memes. This one below is my favorite and will shortly hang on my cubicle wall.


Emma Prunty
Emma Prunty

As the DMI's Content Editor Emma works to bring our members insightful and topical content every week. She has worked in digital everything for over 20 years, from New York to Oslo and Toronto to Dublin, and is always on the lookout for the latest currents of where things are going next. As producer of our popular podcast, she's always happy to hear from anyone interested in coming on the show to share their expertise. She can be found on LinkedIn.

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