The Clorox Co. is contending with the unusual problem of trying to get consumers to stop buying its products.
The maker of bleach and cleaning products has stopped advertising on Amazon because its products have sold out, with shoppers having rushed to grab any disinfectant wipes available during the coronavirus outbreak.
On March 11, Oakland, Calif.-based Clorox confirmed that as stores of its cleaning products dry up online, it has pulled back on advertising — an example of how the COVID-19 pandemic can create ripple effects throughout retail, advertising and beyond.
Clorox also is contending with third-party sellers taking its products and selling them for exorbitant prices, part of a gouging spree that has played out online and in stores ever since consumers began hoarding products like disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, food and other goods.
"We have currently shut down all ad-display activity on most of our disinfecting products on Amazon," a Clorox spokesman said in an email statement to Ad Age. "Also, we're actively working with Amazon to address some of the price gouging that is going on. It's very disappointing to see third-party sellers doing this at a time when people need access to disinfecting products."
When advertisers run out of inventory on Amazon, often their promotional ads for those products shut off automatically. Brands that are on top of their ad spending make sure to turn down the digital if they can't fulfill the orders. Otherwise, they are wasting money on those ads.
Amazon was not immediately available for comment.
The company has been under scrutiny for how it manages sales on its site, even before the coronavirus outbreak exposed even more flaws. Lawmakers, like Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., have reached out to the retailer about policing pricing during the epidemic.
Clorox is hardly the only company affected. Lysol, made by Reckitt Benckiser Group plc, is another cleaning brand in high demand on Amazon, and other retailers.
Amazon's platform is particularly mysterious, however, because its algorithm serves up alternatives to reputable sellers like Clorox and Lysol, offering ways to buy through third parties. Those parties can slap high prices on products that would cost less at any other time.
Amazon has said it is working to address these issues.
Meanwhile, Clorox is firmly focused on restocking products.
"Our priority right now, and the best way to address this at the moment, is to continue to work with our retail partners to replenish our inventory with regularly priced disinfecting product as fast as possible," Clorox said in the email statement. "We have a disinfecting product supply team that's working around the clock to make this happen."