Verizon CEO explains why the company paused advertising on Facebook

Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon

Anjali Sundaram | CNBC

Verizon Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg decided to stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram after seeing content show up next to ads that “were not compliant with our standard agreements,” according to an exclusive interview with CNBC. 

Verizon announced it was temporarily pausing advertising with Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary last month until it felt more “comfortable” with the social media platforms. At the time, Verizon was the largest advertiser to halt its ad spending. The boycott now encompasses more than 750 companies, including companies such as Coca-ColaStarbucks and Unilever.

Vestberg told CNBC that Verizon’s decision wasn’t about politics but rather driven by a desire to maintain “a very high standard for our brands.” The company spent about $23 million in 2019 U.S. advertising on Facebook and more on Instagram, according to data from Pathmatics. Verizon was the 88th largest U.S. advertiser on Facebook for 2019, Pathmatics estimated. 

“Everything we do around our brand is super important,” Vestberg said. “Where we show up, etc. What happened was that certain things on Facebook that were appearing next to our content were not compliant with our standard agreements with Facebook. So we decided to pause and work with them to see how we can avoid this in the future.”

Vestberg declined to say what specifically Verizon is asking Facebook to change. He said similar discussions occurred with Google’s YouTube in 2017 and led to a satisfactory result where Verizon felt comfortable enough to restart advertising.

“This happened with YouTube, and we worked with them and we solved it,” Vestberg said. “We try to work with our partners that we’re using for advertising. But, again, for us, we’re very sensitive to our brand values and our brand standards.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week that he expected the boycotting advertisers “will be back on the platform soon enough,” according to private comments reported by The Information.

Read the full Q&A here, exclusive to CNBC Pro subscribers. 

— CNBC’s Meg Graham contributed to this report.

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