Update June 27 2018, 12:23 pm: Pfizer Canada sent me an email to inform me that they have read my blog post and addressed the issue immediately. They have removed the ads from the EpiPen Canada Facebook page. I personally thank Pfizer Canada for taking my recommendation seriously and congratulate them for taking such speedy action.
One of my children needs to carry an EpiPen Junior all the time, so naturally, I follow the EpiPen Canada Facebook page. I have always been impressed with the quality of their posts .
Despite my personal interest in the brand, I am a marketer at heart and I like checking out the ads on certain Facebook pages. But this time, I came across an unusual situation.
Under the “Ads” tab of the EpiPen Canada Facebook page were ads for rheumatoid arthritis options and Pristiq, a prescription drug indicated for the symptomatic relief of major depressive disorder. For those who aren’t familiar with EpiPen, it is an epinephrine autoinjector for serious allergies. There is no obvious relation between the EpiPen Facebook page or the two ads.
Imagine the confusion that people who see these ads on their Facebook timeline when they see that the ads come from the EpiPen Canada Facebook page yet are completely unrelated.
With such a strong focus on transparency when it comes to advertising, it seems odd to see the EpiPen Canada Facebook page advertise for other brands which belong to its parent company, Pfizer.
Where should these ads appear on Facebook?
Pfizer Canada, the distributor of EpiPen in Canada, has an active Facebook page. It would have been more appropriate to run these advertisements from the Pfizer Canada Facebook page. At the time when I saw the ads on the EpiPen Canada Facebook page, the Pfizer Canada Facebook page did not have any ads listed.
Why would EpiPen promote Rheumatoid Arthritis options and Pristiq?
Rationale 1: Skirting regulatory guidelines?
Initially, I thought perhaps the company was trying to separate its ads from other related ads which may have been perceived as going against the direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisement regulations by Health Canada. For example, in Canada, pharmaceutical DTC can ONLY refer to a product’s name, price and quantity. The moment you mention a disease as part of the ad, any mention of the product name must be removed. It’s one or the other, never both.
If a particular Facebook page were to advertise about a disease state in one ad, and at the same time advertise about the related product, that would probably get the company in trouble. But this was NOT the case, since Pfizer Canada had no ads listed at all. Phewfff!
Rationale 2: Human error?
Another rationale for this mix-and-match of ads on a Facebook page is that somebody probably just made a mistake, either by not realizing that the ads should have been on the Pfizer Canada Facebook page, or simply did not realize that they were placing the ads on the EpiPen Canada Facebook page
This would be particularly plausible if the agency handling the brands’ online and social advertising managed both the corporate social media as well as the social media for EpiPen. But frankly, it seems to me that this could inadvertently happen for one ad, but for two? Hmmm … probably not.
Rational 3: Corporate politics?
Pfizer is a very large company. Perhaps there was a lot of red tape to go through to get approval to place these ads under the overarching Pfizer Canada Facebook page so a decision was made to get the ads out quickly and to just go piggy-back off the EpiPen Facebook page. As marketers in any industry, we all need to be a bit creative sometimes.
Who knows why this happened. Perhaps I my guesses didn’t even come close. Whatever the reason, I honestly do not believe that any ill intentions were involved. Nonetheless, those ads should not remain under the EpiPen umbrella.
What should be done about these unrelated Facebook ads?
Although it is not the end of the world, having one brand advertise for a totally unrelated brand or disease state looks unprofessional. It may also be perceived as unethical because it lacks transparency and it could be confusing to patients who see the ads on their Facebook timeline.
Just my two cents, but Pfizer Canada may want to consider deleting the unrelated ads from the EpiPen Canada Facebook page and reinstating them under the Pfizer Canada Facebook page, or creating separate, new Facebook pages that are specific for the individual ads.
What other interesting Facebook advertising scenarios have you come across?