Lysol Bought The Top Google Search Ad For The Word 'Ebola,' And Then Changed Its Mind

Earlier this week Vice’s tech new channel Motherboard reported that detergent brand Lysol had bought up the top Google ad spot for when people search for the term “Ebola.”

But now, perhaps fearing a backlash from consumers accusing the brand of distastefully piggybacking on the public interest and concern around the deadly infectious disease, Lysol appears to have aborted the marketing campaign.

When the report was published earlier this week, users typing ‘Ebola” into in the US would be presented with the ad below:

Now, when searching for Ebola on in the US, the ad has disappeared:

It could just be, of course, that Lysol was only testing the ad and only intended the campaign to last a day or two. And it was likely that Lysol was already receiving a lot of traffic from people wondering whether the product was useful against the infection (it’s not, particularly, as transmission of the virus typically occurs between person-to-person. The CDC only really recommends using Lysol or other disinfectants in hospital settings — although it never hurts to keep your surfaces clean). From the company’s point of view, you can see why they might feel it would be useful to provide these readers with some information about Ebola and a link to the CDC.

The link in the original ad to, which Motherboard reported had redirected to a “Ebola updates” portal, now redirects to this:

Running a campaign of this nature, related to such a controversial topic was always going to be risky for the brand — not just in terms of reputation but also for its potential to disseminate misinformation about how to prevent the spread of the disease.

Dr Abdulrahman M. El-Sayed, an epidemiologist at Columbia university, had told Motherboard: “It’s kind of ridiculous, and certainly irresponsible. I think this is a corporation riding on false fears of an epidemic to sell its product, thus reinforcing those fears.”

Visiting the main page still brings up a big image of the Ebola virus under the headline “Find information on the CDC on preventative measures for the Ebola virus,” which links to a blogpost dated October 29.

However, Motherboard had reported this headline previously read “Safeguarding against the spread of Ebola,” so it looks as though the brand has changed tack to distance itself from people making a link between Lysol and Ebola prevention.

Business Insider has contacted Lysol owner Reckitt Benckiser to ask why its marketing team appears to have performed a u-turn. This article will be updated when that response is received.

Meanwhile, check out how Google searches for “Ebola” in the US skyrocketed last month. You can see why advertisers might be tempted by all those available impressions:

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