Startup Molekule Is Using the California Wildfires to Sell Its Crummy Air Purifier
Wirecutter called Molekule ‘the worst air purifier we’ve ever tested’
In November 2018, the Camp Fire blaze leveled the idyllic rural town of Paradise — tragically killing 85 people and burning 153,000 acres — and sent a cloud of noxious smoke into the Bay Area. For weeks, the smoke crept under doorways and between window panes. You couldn’t keep it out of your house, even if you tried.
As huge swaths of land went up in flames, some Bay Area residents noticed something odd: their social media feeds were peppered with content from the air purifier startup Molekule, a sleek, San Francisco-based company that claims its $800 air purifier can eliminate pollutants at the molecular level. The company saw a financial opportunity in the crisis, apparently, and targeted Northern Californians with ads for its products.
“Bay Area air quality has jumped to unhealthy air levels,” read one Instagram ad posted that November. “Molekule Air Purifiers not only filter out ash and debris from smoke — they destroy airborne pollutants.” Facebook’s Ad Library shows that in November 2018, Molekule ran promoted Facebook posts disproportionately targeted at California users.
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.