Countermotion: The actions of the members of the Board of Management are not ratified
The BAYER Group is involved in unfair advertising on the internet. For example, BAYER commissioned an agency in Vienna to post comments on social media under a false name. Advertising has taken place for the hormone coil MIRENA, for example, although advertising for prescription-only medicines is prohibited. Charges have since been brought against BAYER.
Documents published by the Austrian magazine Datum reveal the systematic infiltration of social media. They show that the Vienna agency Mhoch3 alone was responsible for several hundred thousand fake postings. Employees of the agency created thousands of identities that posted comments about travel destinations, cars, gambling or new CDs.
The comments faked by Mhoch3 can be found on platforms and social networks such as Facebook, GuteFrage.net or YouTube and on news sites like Spiegel Online or Focus.de. The PR employees pretend to be private individuals offering their help simply out of kindness. Spelling errors and personal questions were included to suggest authenticity. Another job of the agency is to "pretty up" entries in Wikipedia. The PR employees were trained by BAYER prior to the campaign. Many of the faked comments remain on the web today.
In BAYER's case, the products advertised by Mhoch3 included flea control products such as Advantix, Advantage and Kiltix marketed by the Group's animal health division. To increase credibility, the employees were told to invent a domestic pet for this purpose. In internet postings we then find statements like: „Benny, what did you give your cat in the end to get rid of the fleas? We always use a topical treatment from Bayer called Advantage - have you heard of it?...wish you the best of luck!”
An even more critical issue is the marketing for the controversial hormone coil MIRENA, which also runs the risk of harming users' health. Despite reports about side-effects of MIRENA, some of them serious, the agency has posted comments that sound as if they come from friends trying to help: "So I had the hormone coil Mirena inserted a year ago, and I must say I'm very satisfied with it. First of all I was afraid of the insertion procedure, but it wasn't bad at all .." (Olivia34, psychologie.at) or: "I had the Mirena inserted, it's also a hormone coil and my gynecologist already had very positive experience with it (...) – I can fully recommend it."
It was also the task of the agency to lessen the impact of the numerous reports of unwanted reactions: “@ sporzal: it could also be an allergy and might not come from the Mirena at all, unfortunately I only realized that recently, I had frequent headaches and that's no fun – I can sympathize." Specially for this purpose, the imaginary user "MauMau" posted a comment on hormonspirale-forum.de, where women talk about their experience with MIRENA.
The campaign clearly paid off for BAYER. The conclusion reached internally, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, was: "It can basically be said that the internet is an ideal platform for providing information about contraception." In numerous cases, user reactions had shown that they believed the friendly comments and were interested in the coil.
Although no-one knows how many agencies offer fake comments, it can well be assumed that no part of the internet is free of them. In this case the intention clearly was also to circumvent the law, as advertising for prescription-only products like MIRENA is prohibited.
To circumvent the ban on advertising medicines, BAYER also operates websites such as Pille.com or testosteron.de, disguised as "information sources." BAYER spends a total of about 11 billion euros a year on advertising and marketing. The Group refuses to provide a breakdown. BAYER often goes beyond what is permitted: fines for unfair advertising are included in the calculation from the start and paid out of petty cash.
BAYER carries out irresponsible marketing for many medicines. Other current examples are the YASMIN line of contraceptive pills or the anticoagulant XARELTO – both products with a high risk potential. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry is systematically infiltrating self-help groups and patient organizations.
To sum up, it can be said that BAYER will stop at nothing for the sake of a golden balance sheet.