By Louise Kuo Habakus
Mr. Edward B. Rust, Jr.
CEO, State Farm Insurance
One State Farm Plaza
Bloomington, IL 61710
Note: if you would like Ed to see this letter, please e-mail it to him.
November 18, 2014
On behalf of concerned parents across the country, I’m asking you to reverse a recent business decision.
The resonance of your branding suggests that you should be responsive. State Farm is the ubiquitous “good neighbor,” trading on trustworthiness and integrity at the highest standard. You’re a corporate giant who claims to go beyond what’s legal to do what’s right.
State Farm grasps the power of cultural iconography
Your decision to ditch Rob Schneider shocked us.
When you dumped Rob Schneider as a spokesman because he believes parents have the right to decide what’s in the best interests of their children… our collective jaws hit the ground.
As reported in PR Week and widely covered, State Farm dropped Rob Schneider over his views regarding vaccine mandates after social media pages Food Hunk, Science Babe, and Chow Babe called on State Farm to help end the “anti-vaccination movement.”
Your public affairs director, Phil Supple, said the State Farm ad featuring the Richmeister “has unintentionally been used as a platform for discussion unrelated to the products and services we provide.”
(Make no mistake, it wasn’t unintentional.)
Bad move for a smart company.
It got me thinking…
Why on earth would the nation’s largest insurer of cars and homes choose to make such a big statement to the nation’s 150+ million parents over an issue that you admit is unrelated to your business?
And then why would State Farm double down by repudiating a world famous, much loved comedian and Emmy-nominated actor who’s also a conscientious and devoted father expressing an educated, courageous, and heartfelt opinion?
Insurance companies are conservative. I was a corporate vice president for a large insurer for ten years. It’s pretty clear to me why State Farm thought it was a good idea to pull Rob’s ad. A slam dunk, even. Maybe you were led to believe that concerns about parental rights, vaccine safety, and health freedom are radical and fringe.
Not even close. With your decision to unceremoniously cancel Rob, you telegraphed some very brand-damaging messages. Consider how many parents see it:
STATE FARM TOOK A STAND AGAINST PARENTS
You allowed your brand and ad platform to be co-opted for a highly visible and unrelated objective that parents find offensive. Are you really saying that parents shouldn’t decide what’s in the best interests of our kids? Do you truly want State Farm to come down on the side of censorship, suppression, and forced vaccination?
Rob was exercising his right to free speech, promoting an open discussion about a critically important topic and your response was to give him a public spanking and send him to his room. You slammed the door and shut down dialogue. That isn’t socially responsible, good corporate citizenship. It’s corporate McCarthyism and a big part of what’s wrong with society today.
Sometimes, parents are presented with difficult options, each with its own advantages and risks. Children have different risk profiles based on family and medical histories, exposure history, lifestyle, geography, culture, and more. Parents are absolutely correct in rejecting one-size-fits-all diets, educational options—and medicine.
We parents do our best to make thoughtful, rational, informed decisions in the best interests of our families. It’s difficult enough without heavy-handed corporate interference.
STATE FARM VALIDATED A FALSE NARRATIVE
There is no “anti-vaccination” movement. Calling parents “anti-vaccine” is a distorted construct created for the express purpose of labeling and dismissing legitimate concerns. To represent parents as ideologically opposed to an entire category of medical procedures is absurd and irresponsible. All diseases are not the same and neither are all vaccines. Just because a certain antibiotic can cause severe injury to some does not make them anti-antibiotic, any more than deciding not to drive a particular model with defective acceleration makes us anti-car.
In firing Rob, State Farm took the bait. You were used for a purpose that has nothing to do with your brand.
STATE FARM BEHAVED LIKE A CORPORATE BEHEMOTH
Your decision was neither neighborly nor trustworthy. It was a unilateral cheap shot and an institutional power play executed without discussion or remorse.
Americans are fiercely independent. How we raise our children is our business. We don’t like it when powerful entities flex their muscles and tell us what to do. We don’t care if bureaucrats and executives think something is good for us. More than that, we don’t trust it. You’re a corporation. Your job is to make great products and deliver outstanding customer service.
When it comes to parenting our children, you don’t get a vote.
WHEN BIG MEDIA SLAMS THE LITTLE GUY…
TIME magazine’s hit piece on Rob Schneider is disappointing. Rather than engage in an intelligent, serious discussion on a controversial subject, author Jeffrey Kluger resorts to ridicule, leading us to wonder why he’s unable to respond appropriately:
“For the record Rob [sic], no, there is no government conspiracy to force vaccines on kids. No, doctors are not bought off by big pharma. No, vaccines are not filled with toxins. And no, this is not a free speech issue…”
For the record, Jeffrey is wrong:
- Government wants all kids vaccinated. Conspiracy is his word, not ours. And it’s not a useful word.
- Pharma has undue influence on doctors. There’s no question. Relationships are tight and unethical. Stay tuned for the Sunshine Act.
- Vaccines are indeed filled with toxins. This is how they work and how they cause autoimmunity and other harm.
- You better believe this is a free speech issue. Could the media have lined up more quickly to shut Rob down? U.S. press freedom is appallingly low but something smells especially bad at TIME.
Read the full article at Fearless Parent.
Louise Kuo Habakus heads Fearless Parent™. She is the lead editor of Vaccine Epidemic and co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Personal Rights. She is the host and producer of Fearless Parent Radio™. Louise was formerly a corporate vice president for Prudential Financial, a managing director for Putnam Investments, and a Bain consultant. She received two degrees from Stanford University. Louise lives in New Jersey, which is global or U.S. headquarters to over half of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies.