It looks like no one likes an anti-vaxxer: State Farm pulled ads featuring anti-vaccination advocate Rob Schneider following growing criticism from public health organizations. The star of The Hot Chick and former Saturday Night Live player has always been outspoken about his anti-vaccination views, but his latest ad series for the well-known insurance company prompted a fierce social media campaign questioning State Farm's support of the controversial comedian. How can a company that provides health insurance back someone who doesn't believe in the public health good of vaccinations? Good question.
In the State Farm commercials, which began running in August, Schneider revived his SNL character Richmeister, a parody of "that guy" in your office who can't stop coming up with annoying nicknames whenever he sees you. Richmeister was hilarious on SNL in the 1990s, and while the bit is still mildly funny in these State Farms ad, the irony of anti-vaxxer Schneider shilling for an insurance company isn't — at least, not to public health advocates.
According to PR Week, several public health Facebook groups, such as Chow Babe and Food Hunk, launched the anti-Schneider social media campaign in response to the State Farm ads. Chow Babe pointed out that, in a strange ironic twist, the ads began playing during August's National Immunization Awareness Month.
Chow Babe also released this anti-Schneider video to accompany their social media campaign. "State Farm offers health insurance, yet employs the talents of Rob Schneider, a staunch anti-vaxx conspiracy theorist," Chow Babe says in the video's description.
The anti-Schneider campaign apparently worked. Phil Supple, State Farm’s director of public affairs, told PR Week that the Schneider ads obviously had the opposite effect than what they were going for:
[Schneider’s] ad has unintentionally been used as a platform for discussion unrelated to the products and services we provide. With that, we are working to remove the ad from our rotation at this time.
Schneider, of course, hasn't been too happy about being dropped from State Farm. He took to Twitter this week to air his grievances, accusing the public of silencing him and infringing on his free speech rights.
It's debatable whether or not Schneider is truly being censored. After all, he wasn't specifically talking about his anti-vaccination views in the State Farm ads, and he's still free to talk about them publicly now. In fact, other companies may choose to pick up Schneider despite the public outcry.
But, money does talk, and judging from State Farm's response, the insurance company simply seems to think that having Schneider as their spokesperson was bad PR. Airing those commercials during National Immunization Awareness Week was also a poor call on State Farm's part.
Schneider's ads still live online. Here's one of them, with the Richmeister in all his glory...
Images: State Farm ad/YouTube