Novartis, Pfizer among drug makers giving thumbs-up to Facebook ad boycott

Several drugmakers have signed onto the July #StopHateForProfit Facebook ad boycott and dozens of pharma brands have halted campaigns that were previously running on the social network, as the industry continues a recent focus on brand safety.

Pfizer, Vertex, and Novartis are among the companies officially joining #StopHateForProfit. The stoppage was called for by non-profit groups like the NAACP and ADL, along with advocacy organization Sleeping Giants, on June 17. It’s envisioned as a way to protest what the groups say is Facebook’s lack of progress combating hate speech and misinformation.

“In accordance with the mission of the #StopHateforProfit movement, Novartis has decided to pause/reallocate all paid content across Facebook and Instagram for the month of July,” a spokesperson for the Swiss drugmaker told MM&M. Novartis is reallocating the funds across various non-Facebook owned social and digital platforms, the spokesperson added.

“Today we are asking Facebook to take proactive steps to ensure their platforms are safe and trusted spaces for all,” Pfizer declared in its statement, shared with MM&M. Vertex, for its part, joined the boycott “to encourage Facebook, Inc. to take real action against the spread of hate and misinformation on their platforms,” according to CNBC.

Across all industries, more than 240 organizations or businesses have joined the campaign or yanked spending on other social platforms, such as Twitter and YouTube. Some have done so independently of formally joining the boycott, per a running list from Sleeping Giants.

As of Wednesday evening, 31 out of 39 pharma brands (79%) that had paused Facebook ads on Juneteenth and the ensuing weekend had done so again on July 1 – a move which also “appears to be in support of the #StopHateForProfit July boycott,” observed Ian Orekondy, CEO of ad-tech firm AdComplyRx.

Put another way, out of 90 pharma Rx brands that, according to AdComplyRx, ran digital ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram last month, 39 (43%) paused for Juneteenth weekend and 58 (64%) paused on July 1.

While the total number of brands going dark as of July 1 is a lot higher than for Juneteenth weekend, Orekondy said the lion’s share didn’t necessarily do so to make a social statement. “We’re hearing that brands are really thinking about brand safety first as opposed to playing an activist role,” he noted.

Brands among the Juneteenth boycotters that did not pause their Facebook campaigns yesterday included ones from AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb, Orekondy said. “In some cases, this is a brand-by-brand decision made in conjunction with their agency, and sometimes it’s an overall pharma company decision.”

In the latter camp was Genentech, which told MM&M it decided “to pause advertising and paid promotion on all social media platforms for the time being to conduct an assessment and ensure the standards of each platform do not conflict with our company’s position and values.”

As for those companies that publicly pledged support for the boycott, it’s a sign that pharma, which largely spoke out against systemic racism after the death of George Floyd, is rallying around #StopHateForProfit – at least to a certain extent – as a way to translate those corporate statements into action. “For us, it’s clear that to live our value of Equity, demonstrating respect for all people and making it clear that any hate speech is unacceptable, we must speak up and take action,” Pfizer said in its statement.

Formal signatories to the boycott also included med-tech firm Siemens, German skincare company Beiersdorf AG, CPG giant Unilever and health plan Blue Shield of California.

Editor’s note: This is a developing story. MM&M will update this list if and when other biopharma or med-tech companies join the July ad boycott. 

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A pharma graduate turned into a content writer. Her passion towards writing and enthusiasm towards marketing trends paved a path for her to become a writer. She Has prior work experience as a content writer for digital marketing agencies and Healthcare clinics.