Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Molekule Is Using the California Wildfires to Sell Its Crummy Air Purifier

Sarah Emerson, OneZero:

California is again on fire. In Sonoma County, the Kincade Fire is ripping through communities and threatening to reach the Pacific Coast. It is one of half-a-dozen major fires currently threatening the state. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes throughout the county, and even more are facing power blackouts by PG&E.

And Molekule is once again advertising against the disaster, running promoted posts on Instagram that play on the public’s fear of wildfire smoke. Molekule isn’t the only brand that stands to benefit from a burning California, but the company’s ads feel opportunistic. Compared to other air purifiers, Molekule’s air purifier is wildly expensive, and looks like something you’d find in a millionaire’s doomsday bunker.

Earlier this month, the Wirecutter published their roundup of the best air purifiers on the market. They included the Molekule in their tests and were shocked by how badly it performed. Also, it has one of those bright blue LED lights that cannot be turned off while it’s in use which, while not quite as bad as selling an air purifier that doesn’t really do the thing it says it does, ought to be enough to disqualify the purchase of any product.

Elon Musk is also using the wildfires as a marketing opportunity, though Justine Calma of the Verge frames it somewhat differently. It’s subtle, but see if you can spot it:

Musk offered $1,000 off [solar panels and Powerwalls] to customers who are affected by the outages. His generosity is likely to benefit more affluent Californians’ who are coping with the power loss, given the price of a home installation. On its website, Tesla lists the average price of a Solar Roof as $33,950. Its home battery system, the Powerwall, costs roughly $14,100 for a 2,200-square-foot home. The company unveiled Solar Glass Roof tiles just three days ago.

It is, of course, a good thing to make solar power more accessible. It is vulgar to tie this promotion to a disaster of staggering proportions.

Update: Molekule is apologizing, says that they’ve donated products to the fires — which is a weird way to phrase a donation to, I assume, those affected, but okay — and has pulled the ads.