Drugmakers pause Facebook ads for Juneteenth, joining anti-racism protest

Pharma brands joined the #StopHateForProfit call to boycott Facebook advertising for Juneteenth and through the weekend. The call to action from civil rights organizations began last week with an ad in the Los Angeles Times asking advertisers to pause ads on Facebook during July in response to the social media platform’s history that allows “racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform.”

Nineteen pharma brands paused their Facebook ad campaigns on June 19, according to data gathered by AdComplyRx. Another 23 pharma product brands went dark for the entire weekend, said Ian Orekondy, CEO of AdComplyRx.

Three of the top 10 brands in the U.S.—Amgen, AbbVie and Novartis—went dark across their entire portfolio of brands for the entire weekend, hitting pause on advertising products such as Mavyret, Imbruvica and Cosentyx, respectively. Other pharma companies, such as Takeda, Merck, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Gilead, paused one or more of their brands on June 19 or for the weekend. Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 to honor the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.

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“It appears to be a decision at the brand manager level as opposed to a decision by the pharma companies overall,” Orekondy said, adding that his company’s data back that up: Half of the top 10 companies paused one or more product brands, but not all of them did.

Several ad agencies confirmed to Orekondy that the pause requests came through brand managers on specific products.

One of those agencies, Good Apple, confirmed that several of its pharma brands had joined the movement this weekend. An agency spokesperson for the digital social media agency said via email that the response was similar to the 2017 boycott of advertising on YouTube after the platform declined to stop posting ads next to extremist content. That boycott garnered widespread pharma company support.

“Similar to 2017, we anticipate a number of large advertisers in the pharma space to participate or address the movement,” the spokesperson said. “Good Apple is expecting this boycott to gain more traction than the one against YouTube and is in the process of scenario planning for clients, inclusive of reallocating funds from Facebook to other channels. "

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While the agency believes the movement will continue to grow, still to be determined is exactly which pharma companies will participate. Already more consumer brands this week, including Patagonia, committed to the original July ad boycott call from six civil rights organizations: the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color Of Change, Free Press and Common Sense.