Today is World AIDS Day, and in the scuzziest, most self-interested fashion Bristol-Myers is hitching its marketing wagon to the star of AIDS in Africa. Just about everyone knows that the marketing tactics of U.S. pharmaceutical companies are among the most patently hypocritical and self-serving in the corporate world. But Bristol-Myers’ Secure the Future campaign, which trumpets the company’s anti-AIDS efforts in Africa (“We call the program Secure the Future–Care and Support for Women and Children with HIV/AIDS”), reaches new heights of sheer effrontery. Man, I sure hope the folks at ACT UP are blogging about this!
>From what I can tell by reading the full page ad (“Village by village, orphan by orphan: how we’re fighting AIDS in Africa”) in today’s New York Times (A7 of the National edition–a pity I can’t give you a URL for the self-righteous ad [if anyone has a jpg version of this ad please let me know]), Bristol-Myers wants the world to know about all the good works it is doing in Africa to improve health care, fund clinics, care for orphaned children, etc. I really hate to throw a wrench into the marketing juggernaught here, but there’s just one itty bitty problem. There’s nary a word mentioned about the single most effective means of fighting AIDS in Africa: providing affordable retroviral medicines to treat everyone who needs it regardless of their ability to pay. Hmmm! It must’ve been an oversight. I’m sure they’d want to let the world know about how willing they’ve been to sell their drugs at sharply discounted prices because of the sheer enormity of the calamity befalling the continent, right??
It’s certainly no accident that B-S’ marketing showcases its corporate philanthropy rather than its sales and pricing practices. Secure the Future not only gives B-S a leg up as it faces a PR disaster regarding its shameless efforts to prop up its policy of resisting drug discounts to African nations; the millions spent in this campaign earn the company tax deductions. Cutting the prices of AIDS drugs will cut into profit margins, the worst thing a major corporation can do in the eyes of Wall Street and shareholders. So really, aside from hypocrisy and self-interest its a win-win situation all around.
I couldn’t bring you the company’s full-page ad, but I found the next best thing: the Secure the Future website. Here’s a screenshot of the main page:
For its shameless attempt to appropriate the suffering of AIDS victims, Bristol-Myers enters the Corporate Hall of Shame.