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Brad Breininger & Marko Zonta

Zync - Journal | Who owns social?

Discussing social and its censorship.

Who owns social?

We all use it. Brands spend a lot of money trying to build brand awareness, but who controls the channel?

Is it the platforms themselves, local governments, or the entire global community? What do you think?

Listen to our podcast here:

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Recorded on January 15th, 2021


Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s Everything is Brand. This week we want to talk about who owns social. So there’s been a lot in the news recently about canceling people off of social media or commenting on people who are on social media. And there’s been some backlash. And there’s been some support in both of those areas. So today, we want to talk a little bit about that. All right, so guys, what do you think? Who owns social? I mean, is it up to all of the heads of the social media conglomerates to police the system themselves? Or do we need to consider government regulation? And how would we do that globally? What do you guys think?

Jeremy Linskill: 0:51

I think that’s a tough one. Frankly, everything changes so fast, the rules change, it’s really hard to manage something like that. And all these companies are private. So I think that that’s a big part of this is, you know, right now they have the power to flick the switch. And if they don’t like what somebody said, they can take them off, or take her off or take them off or, and I think it’s a really interesting time. Frankly, this goes beyond social for me, in terms of really, it’s in this sort of technological space, where these big companies now are gaining more and more control in all the things they do, whether it’s Apple, Google, or the social media. I know we’re trying to keep it on social media train. So I’ll try and stay there. But it’s a big concern that, yeah, I don’t have the answer to that.

Marko Zonta: 1:39

It’s interesting, you know, you said, we’re talking about social here. But this has to do with who has the right to speak or send out messages or whatever that is just kind of staying close to what we do have some, you know, branding, and marketing, let’s face it, I mean, in the advertising, industry, and marketing, there are certain rules that for years and years, that industry had to kind of adhere to that you are not allowed to do certain things. in advertising, for example, whether it’s hate speech, or any kind of images that may not be seen as appropriate, all kinds of things, right. And once in a while we hear about a campaign that gets launched, and there is an outcry of some for whatever reason, people will actually complain about it. And in some cases, campaigns get pulled down. So there are definitely rules around advertising. And let’s face it, social media is now used as an advertising channel, whether it’s for corporate advertising, or personal opinions, or whatever it may be. So the fact that whether it’s national loss, or international laws that will actually start to look at that a lot more closely, is not surprising. I think that it’s just a matter of time. But Further to that, too, though, I

Jeremy Linskill: 2:54

mean, if we’re comparing it to advertising, I think you look at when a celebrity makes a mistake in the media or whatever, how instantly fast, they’re dropped from a marketing campaign or even a sponsorship deal. And I think that that’s kind of what we’re seeing here on social media in the same sense, right? Like, people just get washed away. And the companies, the brands have the power to do that. They just say, we’re no longer associating ourselves with this person. They distance themselves as fast as possible. And what we’re kind of talking about here as well, right?

Brad Breininger: 3:25

Yeah, the term is canceled culture, you know, like everyone talks about this idea of canceled culture. And it’s interesting, because it seems to have become this blanket term that is used for anytime anyone is held accountable for what they’re doing. And I think that there’s often times where people should be canceled. And then there’s other times where maybe they shouldn’t be, but it’s all kind of getting lumped into this singular area, and people are using it to their advantage. And they’re also using it to their disadvantage in some cases as well. I mean, what do you guys think about this idea of canceled culture? Is that Is it something that is running rampant in there? Or? Or is it a way of being held accountable that people just don’t like?

Jeremy Linskill: 4:06

I like the idea of people being held accountable. I mean, if they’re going to do something stupid, or whatever, they should pay the piper, in that sense that mean, maybe that’s naive in in some senses, and he can get into the whole conversation about free speech, etc. But I do like the people that are put in front of everybody else have a little bit more responsibility to walk the line and lead by example and lead in a in a positive light. That’s where I stand person.

Gabi Gomes: 4:33

That’s, that’s all fine and dandy when it’s in a positive light. But as we’ve seen, it’s been used for negative means, right? Like and let’s let’s call it out, what’s it’s it’s Trump. Right. And Jerry made a comment earlier that they’re private companies. They’re not actually private companies. They’re actually public companies. Now and as a result of Trump for example, Trump’s Twitter at Count being shut down Twitter stock went down by 12%. So there are concerns there in terms of these policies that these companies have, they’ve made themselves which all liken it to God and them making their own rules. So bye bye, and tied to financial. So it’d be interesting to see what happened at Twitter in terms of did the thought actually crossed their mind that by canceling Trump’s account would affect their financials? Right? That’s kind of scary when those two are playing together. But sadly, as much as I think social was started for good, and for connecting people and whatnot, we’re seeing more and more of it becoming a negative. And I’m always a proponent that the law is too far behind when it comes to technology. And it needs to catch up, like, way, way, way too many times. And we’re seeing this now we’ve gone through so many elections that were lost or went sideways because of Facebook ads, because of algorithms, and there’s still not enough laws in place to stop that.

Brad Breininger: 6:13

Yeah. Is it a question of laws, though? I mean, you know, a lot of that influence has not come domestically, it’s come internationally. And the idea that a single country can police the entire world, is that even reasonable? Is that a way? Like, you know, going back to the whole question that we have here, when we say who owns social? I mean, is it owned by these companies? Are these free channels out in the universe that have to be governed by international laws? We can’t even agree domestically, sometimes on how to deal with these things. How will we ever agree internationally? Are these things standing in the way of us coming to some conclusions that could work?

Marko Zonta: 6:53

Well, like I think that to Gabi’s point, that loss will be critical here. And quite frankly, international loss will have to be worked on to kind of bring everybody together. But that doesn’t mean that companies themselves are not responsible. And let’s face it, we’re talking about it now, because of some of the recent developments, high profile people being kind of locked out of their accounts type of thing. But it happens all the time. People that posted pictures of them breastfeeding, their babies, their accounts, would you be removed for all kinds of things that would seem very innocent and nothing, not threatening or anything like that, and they get blocked. So it happens all the time. And because companies have those policies. Now, in some cases, you would think that it’s free speech, and there’s all of that stuff should be allowed. I guess, when it comes to some of the latest developments. This just brings it to a whole new level of complexity. But frankly, I do think that a cut those companies are responsible to a certain extent, they have to draw the line somewhere.

Brad Breininger: 7:57

But does self policing work? No real will companies, you know, to Gaby’s point earlier about when it starts to get tied to their financial performance? Are they going to operate in the best interest of the users in the best interest of society? If it’s tied to their financial bottom line? I mean, that’s the question we have to ask, right,

Gabi Gomes: 8:19

we saw, like just bubbling back up, we saw the boycott in July of Facebook, with respect to the ads from major brands. And by the way, no impact on the brands from them cutting all those ads, they’re still there, they’re still successful, despite the fact that they did not engage in advertising in that period of time. And they did that to basically crack down on the hate speech and the misinformation that’s happening on these platforms. So until those big brands, I completely advocate for that, start putting their money where their mouth is, or start actioning with their money, only then can I think, Facebook, etc, Google, I mean, stat, I’m going to put it out there. Facebook together with Google, combined, control approximately 60% of the digital advertising market. That’s huge. That’s a lot of money that is going out there. So unless brands talk with their money, or place it where they want to place it, then and only then will I think we see change. And clearly, I’d like to see Facebook, do more. I’d like Facebook to really crack down on it. But like I said before, if it’s tied to money, will they do the right thing? Yeah, it’s taking them a long time to do the right thing.

Marko Zonta: 9:37

You know, I just want to pick up on that one point, Gabby that you just made brands who need to market and obviously they need to get their message out. They have a choice. They have choices. They have options, I should say it is not just Facebook that’s out there. There are a lot of other channels that can use so if one of those companies is not I’m going to say that Doing the right thing? You know, what is a different channel?

Jeremy Linskill: 10:03

Will they do that?

Brad Breininger: 10:04

Yeah, first of all, will they do that? And second of all, when two companies control that amount of the advertising channel, it’s easy to say just go somewhere else. But the problem is, is that and you see this in any kind of monopolistic situation, is that it’s difficult to do that, because you’re not getting the same eyeballs, you’re not getting the same influence that you’re hoping for. Right? Yeah. And so you end up in this kind of secondary area, which is not maybe as advantageous to you, as you would hope. But Christian, what do you think? Do you think that this is an area that we need to be highly concerned about? Or what are your thoughts?

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 10:43

You know, it’s interesting, we’ve been talking about this whole cancel culture. But if you think about it, most of these cases are usually related to high profile people, celebrities, influencers, when I think we should be thinking about the communities that are on those social media platforms. If you analyze what happened with a capital and Trump, it’s not just about the message he posted. It’s everything that came after that message with the whole communities. gazillion groups started popping up, people organizing themselves. It’s interesting, I even saw a couple of groups that had on their descriptions, something like, please make sure you join this group and in case it gets cancelled, go to Korra, or go to Twitter go to 4chan or these other social media platforms, so that they can continue the conversation. So it’s about not just canceling high profile influencers, but just talking about how these groups behave as well. There’s been a lot of talk about Qanon, I don’t think it would be such a thing without Facebook, for example,

Brad Breininger: 12:09

right back before we had the town square, and people could go into the town square, and they could do whatever they wanted to. But the reality was, is that you weren’t reaching millions of people in the town square. So it had to kind of make its way through society. And the issue now is that with a single tweet, you can influence millions and millions of people. And if they take you seriously, because you’re in a position of power, or you’re in a position of influence, that’s a huge responsibility. And I guess going back to our title of who owns social? Is it the community that owns social? Is it the influencer? Or the person who owns social? Is it the companies who own social? Is it the governments who own social? Or is it society in general, global society that owns social? I mean, these are really difficult questions, and the idea that we’re gonna somehow be able to control this, are we just crazy? Are we being crazy to think that that’s even possible?

Gabi Gomes: 13:07

I think the way moving forward is I think, as a brand, you’ve really got to look at your culture and what you stand for, and align yourself with brands, whether they be social platforms, etc, that have the same values as you do going forward.

Marko Zonta: 13:23

I think you’re absolutely right. And that’s what I wanted to say earlier. It’s brands have to have their own internal values. And they need to take a look at how that aligns with their external voice.

Brad Breininger: 13:34

If, for example, a major player like a Facebook doesn’t have that same ethical outlook on the world that a bunch of brands do, do they just take Facebook out of their equation? Is that even possible?

Jeremy Linskill: 13:49

Yeah, I don’t know. Again, going back to the people, right, if there’s millions of people on Facebook, I don’t know how you walk away and the brand.

Gabi Gomes: 13:58

But the boycott in July prove that major brands walked away in July, and it still didn’t hinder their brand.

Brad Breininger: 14:04

But are they back? Are they back now?

Jeremy Linskill: 14:06

For sure they are.

Marko Zonta: 14:07

Are there also opportunities in that where they can actually use those channels and turn that into positive messaging to almost counter what’s going on with that particular channel? Right. So so let’s face it, I mean, in advertising, there are a lot of creative ways that you can position your messaging and your your voice in general. So and we’ve seen that in the past, like how certain brands took advantage of whatever negative stuff that was happening at that time. I don’t mean to say advantage in a bad way. I mean, they saw an opportunity to actually change the conversation and actually say, look, what’s going on right now is not appropriate is not acceptable. Here is a better way of going forward.

Gabi Gomes: 14:49

Do you think brands need to do that more to use their platforms to use their voice to better the world like I saw lush for example. Scrolling through my feed, blah, blah, blah. And all of a sudden they have a statement out condemning the acts on Capitol Hill, etc. Right? So do they need to do more of that?

Jeremy Linskill: 15:10

Do they go a lot of that? We call that during the pandemic and the beginning of the pandemic? Yeah, every look, brands do use their platform to talk about what people should be doing. Right. I think after a while, yeah, it kind of became noise. Like, everyone was doing the same thing. And it Yeah, they lost personality and all that kind of stuff. So I, I guess if you’re first to market in that situation, it’s great. Absolutely. But I think if you’re this fourth, or fifth or sixth person in, I don’t know if it’s going to help, but I don’t know.

Brad Breininger: 15:42

I mean, the other issue is that sometimes it can come across as preachy, and people don’t necessarily like that. So that’s one thing that brands have to be very careful of. I think the other thing too, is that, you know, a lot of people say to some brands, you know, stay in your lane, like, quite frankly, if you’re making bath bombs, do I really care what political groups you support? I mean, it’s, I’m not saying that it’s not tied to what you choose as a consumer. But But the reality is, is that, you know, for a lot of consumers, and there are so many consumers who are plugged in to that kind of thing. They want to use brands that have social responsibility, or have ethical values. But then for a lot of folks, it’s all based on costs, right? It’s the company’s ethical values are not necessarily front and center, or their social elements are not front and center. I mean, we see over and over again, there are some big brands that are not very good, ethically or socially, but they’re extremely successful because they’re able to offer lower prices, or whatever it might be. I mean, is that is that something that is? Is it the purview of the elite, or the principled, or the privileged to be able to make those decisions, and usually brands that have that,

Gabi Gomes: 17:04

I think that’s an old generations mentality. And I think the millennials and all the generations that are coming after that are have a very different mindset, they are putting their money where they want that aligns with their values, we’re seeing that with respect to the environment. We’re seeing that with respect to food, all other sorts of choices, I think we’re gonna start to see that more and more,

Marko Zonta: 17:29

I think that’s, but on that point alone, it’s interesting, because I think that a lot of people are saying, Yes, people want different things. Now they’re more ethically aware, whatever it may be. But going back to social, how many people canceled their Facebook account? Or whatever channel they felt was actually pushing out negative messaging? Or were supporting negative messaging? Yeah, very few. And few, very few people have those same people who complain about it actually canceled the account.

Jeremy Linskill: 18:02

Yeah, cuz fear of missing out. Right, right.

Brad Breininger: 18:05

Yeah. I mean, we have a lot of power as consumers, we have a lot of power as participants in social, but at the same time, if you take yourself out of the conversation, and the conversation is still going on, are you actually giving up your influence? I mean, we all have these ideas that we want to, you know, we want to support socially responsible organizations, or we want to support ethically responsible organizations, or we want to support organizations where they police themselves, or they regulate themselves in a way that fits with our view of what the world should be. But then, when the rubber hits the road, and it comes time exactly what you were saying, Marco, when it comes time to cancel your account or stop shopping there. Some people do and they they do make that choice. But a lot a lot don’t. Is that a problem? I mean, does that really say look? And do the companies know this? Do they know that people will complain or stand up but then at the end of the day, they’ll just continue on because they’re afraid like you said, you’re missing out on something.

Marko Zonta: 19:10

Bottom line is that injustice historically, in society in general, the only time things change is when people actually take an active action in it like in the sense that the most important vote is with your money. When you stop spending your money or your time using something or paying for something that is when change starts to happen. Because if you have a million people that actually drop, cancel an account or whatever it is, all of a sudden, those companies or brands notice that right? And so that is where things start to happen. Now, obviously, brands then start to make those changes as well. They start canceling accounts or they start using certain social channels to advertise or whatever that’s again, where they are starting to force that change on those companies. At the end of the day, it’s all of us who are active participants in whatever change is happening, whether it’s positive or negative.

Brad Breininger: 20:12

Yeah, agreed. And I think that there’s a whole segment of the population that gets behind that specifically. But I mean, here’s the question, we all know, some of the issues that there have been with Facebook or Twitter yet these platforms Go on, is it? Are people canceling in the groups or in the amounts that have a true effect? Or are these platforms just rolling along at such a speed and such a level of influence that, you know, what if they drop a few people along the way, so be it because the major population is just gonna stick with it?

Jeremy Linskill: 20:48

So interesting, on the other side of that, and bringing it back to what we talked about last week, on clubhouse, so we’re seeing Twitter and Facebook and all that shutting down, Donald Trump, on the flip side of that, we’re seeing clubhouse not let people in, which I think is very interesting. I’m, you know, I’m going to pay attention to that going forward, because it’s almost the reverse of that, right? Where they’re now getting, they have the ability to say yea, or nay as to whether you can access their platform. So what do you guys think about that? Because I think that that’s the interesting thing that’s happening as well. And something we may see other platforms start to do as they they join the tech world is decide, okay, well, we only want to let the certain people in and give the bandwidth to these voices. And we’re going to leave other people out right now.

Brad Breininger: 21:36

Yeah. And coupled with that, Jeremy, I think that one of the things that we’re hearing as well is that with some of the cancelling of accounts, there’s talk of starting a new platform that would attract a certain group of people outside of whether the more common platform, so are we seeing segmentation here where the platforms are no longer open to everyone. And it’s much more about niche groups that kind of all get together to talk to just people who are like them, which is, is kind of what the algorithms already do to a certain degree. But we’re talking about whole platforms that are geared towards a certain way of thinking, are we losing the opportunity for debate? are we losing the opportunity for discussion and conversation?

Jeremy Linskill: 22:20

Well, and further to that, you know, going back to Apple and Google, who approves those platforms, they do, right? They say that they can be in the app stores. Right? So we just

Brad Breininger: 22:29

got rid of parlor, right? Like parlor was just kind of taken off of all of the platforms, because all the big companies now i’m not saying whether I agree or disagree with that. I’m trying to stay neutral for the purposes of this conversation. But But the reality is, that’s a lot of power that those companies have.

Marko Zonta: 22:47

And it’s interesting, actually, but is it? Where is one of the problems that nobody actually wants to just actually step up and say, No, this is wrong. Like, why is hate speech acceptable on any level? Like, I’m sorry? Like, why are what are its individuals or communities or brands, companies? Not actually simply saying, I’m sorry, I don’t care who you are, what you’re doing. hate speech is unacceptable. Period. Your shutdown?

Brad Breininger: 23:19

Yeah, I think I think what you’re saying, Marco, I think people can get around a lot of that when it is so blatantly obvious. Like, I think what happened at the Capitol was blatantly obvious for all groups, and everyone kind of denounced it. I think where we run into the issue is when it’s a little more nuanced, where people are saying things that one group says, Oh, my God, this is hate speech. And the other group says, No, it’s not. It’s my right to say what I think or it’s my opinion. So yeah, I mean, I agree 100%, there are some things that are just wrong. And I think that when that happens, we can all get around that, I think, where what’s causing the most problems, though, is that more nuanced situation where it could go either way,

Gabi Gomes: 24:03

and what and when those platforms and the algorithms around it are just surfacing up the same stuff that you’ve read, and it doesn’t allow for the other side to come in the other viewpoint of it. So you’re basically getting served the same information or your same viewpoint over and over and over again, therefore, reaffirming your views are correct, and never surfacing up another different view.

Brad Breininger: 24:31

Yeah. And then a lot of experts have said that’s one of the real issues with social is not the conversation or not what’s being said, it’s how people’s opinions and thoughts and based on what they’re doing on these platforms. It’s just reiterating something that they might have had an idea about, or they might have been interested in knowing more about. And then all of a sudden, everything around that topic is then geared to them and it’s a little Bit of brainwashing would you guys call it brainwashing?

Jeremy Linskill: 25:03

Yep, I think so subtle, subtle, blank brainwashing right over and over again with repetition. Yeah, you see it, you start to believe it right?

Brad Breininger: 25:11

It almost feels like the algorithms own social. It’s not about governments or community. It’s about the algorithms themselves.

Gabi Gomes: 25:20

Yes. But who owns those algorithms? And who controls those algorithms? I think we’ve seen this enough. I think we’ve now gone through a number of political elections where we’ve seen this come into play, and something’s got to be done about it. Just what why do we even accept political ads is beyond my understanding that shouldn’t just sometimes it went right, it went right. For Obama. It didn’t go right, for other folks. And

Brad Breininger: 25:48

there’s a whole group of people that we disagree with you the other way.

Gabi Gomes: 25:52

You know, it’s one thing for the states, it’s happening globally. It’s not just the states. And that’s the concerning part. That’s the concerning part.

Marko Zonta: 26:01

But the other kind of the flip side of, I guess, this issue or conversation is we look at the accounts being closed or canceled, and all that kind of stuff, and all the negative around social. But are there a lot of positive things that come out of social channels, conversations on social, are people worldwide, a lot more aware of how things could be better how their lives could be better how things can move forward, because of those global conversations, because people are having a voice or a channel where they can actually introduce new ideas, new technologies, new, whatever it may be, right, so we’re on this conversation focused, obviously, on the negative, but social channels do provide a lot of positive as well.

Gabi Gomes: 26:55

It’s just been all

Jeremy Linskill: 27:00

the negative comes through the algorithms and the advertising and all that, right. The positives are in the fact that you get to choose who you follow. So there is a lot of in there, like you’re making choices about what you’re being fed, it’s all the stuff that’s coming in between that that’s now causing the problems that sort of graying it from being thing than it was when it started. And it goes back to money, right? Like, these companies need to make money somehow. And in order to do that, they have to let the advertising in and all that kind of stuff in the algorithms, etc. But to Mark was pointing that positivity, like, I don’t think I don’t think anybody’s is learning as fast as they are with with the help of social and having these channels of focus information being sent to you on things that you want, as well. So

Brad Breininger: 27:47

yeah, I mean, the the positive elements of social, I think, and we’ve talked about these in previous podcasts, there is a lot of good in social, the fact that humans can talk to each other globally is is a huge bonus. The problem is, is we’re still humans, and like anything, there has to be some sort of rules or parameters or things that allow for the conversation to happen in a way where the positive can outweigh the negative, I think that there will always be that wave that goes back and forth between the positive aspects of social and the negative aspects. But the reality is, is that when it comes to ownership, at the end of the day, these companies are private companies, and they own their platforms. And that’s just how it is. And they have rules of conduct. And they have things like that, that they can make those decisions. So as much as we might like it or not like it, they are allowed to do that. That being said, it is still the responsibility of governments and whether that happens locally, or whether that happens on a more global scale. I do think to your point earlier, GAVI, governments have to rise up a little bit and get involved in helping to determine what is going to be acceptable going forward. Because a lot of the social media platforms during this time, we’re not expecting some of the stuff that happened and they had to make decisions on the fly, because there was no legislation to support them, or there was no deeper rules that were either global laws or local laws around what was right or wrong. So I think that ultimately, the platform’s are owned by these private companies. But governments have to get more involved, as we’ve talked about, they have to be part of the conversation. They have to be aware of what’s going on, and they have to make decisions around laws and how they want to regulate. And then the other part of it is that we have to own it as well. We have to own the conversation. We have to own our responsibility in that conversation when we have to own our ability to speak up when we don’t think things are right. Will people agree or disagree? Absolutely that is going to happen, no matter what happens. But we have to have that conversation and we have to decide as a group. You know, there are situations that are so obvious that we all say, No, this is unacceptable. But then there’s all these nuanced elements that we have to ask the questions. Is this good for us? Is it not good for us? And we have to own those conversations. And then the final piece of that is brands have to own their part in all of this as well. Because, you know, to your point, Jeremy, yes, there is advertisement, and the advertisement is required. But the brands are the advertisers. So if there’s something that they see, that isn’t working, they have to use their voice and their influence to enable that to happen. I think what we want to avoid, and I think we could all agree on this is we don’t really want any one entity to own it all, because that’s when we’re going to run into all of the problems. But if we can find a way to bring all of those groups together, the companies, the government, the community, and the advertisers and the brands, I think that if we can continue the conversation, we can focus way more on the positive aspects of social media. And maybe the negative aspects will be alleviated a little bit and be not so prevalent as they might be right at this moment in time. So that’s everything is brand for this week, another great topic, another current topic, and we’ll be back next week with another conversation. Join us then and remember, everything is brand

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