Fake Eli Lilly account could cost Twitter millions

Fake Eli Lilly account could cost Twitter millions
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The nine-word tweet was sent Thursday afternoon from an account using the name and logo of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., and immediately drew a huge response: “We’re excited to announce that insulin is now free.” .

The tweet had a blue “verified” check mark, a badge that Twitter had used for years to indicate the authenticity of an account, and that Twitter’s new billionaire owner, Elon Musk, had, while stating “Power to the people!” it was suddenly opened to anyone, regardless of his identity, as long as they paid $8.

But the tweet was false, one of those that became a rapid multiplication horde from impersonated businesses, political leaders, government agencies and celebrities. When Twitter deleted the tweet more than six hours later, the account had inspired other fake Eli Lilly imitators and has been viewed millions of times.

Inside the real Eli Lilly, the fake caused panic, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Company officials rushed to Twitter representatives and demanded that they remove the viral parody, concerned it could undermine their brand reputation or fuel false claims about people’s medications. Twitter, his staff cut in halfHe didn’t react for hours.

The fallout from that $8 spoof offers a potentially costly lesson for Musk, who has long treated Twitter as a playground for lewd pranks and trolls but must now find a way to operate as a business following its acquisition. of $44 billion.

By Friday morning, Eli Lilly executives ordered a halt to all Twitter ad campaigns, a potentially serious blow given the $330bn company controls the kind of massive ad budget Musk says the company needs to avoid. bankruptcy. They also stopped their Twitter posting plan for all corporate accounts around the world.

“For $8, they’re potentially losing millions of dollars in ad revenue,” said Amy O’Connor, a former Eli Lilly communications officer who now works at a trade association. “What is the benefit to a company… of staying on Twitter? It’s not worth the risk when the patient’s trust and health are at stake.”

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Eli Lilly, who declined to answer questions about the episode or how much money it spent on Twitter advertising, is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, known for the depression drug Prozac and diabetes treatments Trulicity and Humalog.

He maintains a strong presence on Twitter. In addition to your main corporate account, @lily leafmanages independent accounts dedicated to diabetes care, european health policy, clinical trials, Rheumatology and the distribution of health information in Spanish, Italian Y French. It spends more than $100 million a year on TV commercials and digital ad campaigns in the United States, according to MediaRadar, a marketing data firm.

When Twitter didn’t react quickly to his pleas about the fake account, Eli Lilly took to his official account on Thursday afternoon to apologize to his 130,000 followers for the ““misleading” fake When the fake account was still active five hours later, a Twitter ad sales representative in New York publicly pleaded with Musk to have the fake account removed.

Musk did not respond, but the account was suspended Thursday night. The next morning Musk tweeted that the launch of Twitter’s new $8 verification scheme was “generally fine.”

Musk did not respond to requests for comment for this article. Twitter’s communications team also did not respond; many of his employees were laid off in the mass layoff Musk imposed on November 1. Four.

In a brief statement on Friday, Eli Lilly said it was “working to correct this situation.”

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Musk has said the sweeping change to Twitter’s “verified” system, first introduced in 2009, would shake up the established journalists he routinely criticizes by breaking their “information oligopoly.”

Twitter doesn’t verify the identity of anyone who pays $8 for the verification mark, which looks identical to the current “verified” badge. Musk has said that spammers and impersonators would be deterred by the fact that their $8 would not be returned if their accounts were suspended.

However, the sudden change has decimated some of the last remnants of trust among advertisers on the platform, said Jenna Golden, who led Twitter’s advocacy and political ad sales team until 2017 and now runs Golden Strategies, a firm DC consulting.

Twitter, he said, has never been a “must buy” for advertisers. Although it is a popular way to reach influential political figures and news junkies, it has never had the scale and performance of digital giants like Google and Facebook.

Now, with its verification system in pieces, “it’s making it very easy for advertisers to say, ‘You know what, I don’t need to be here anymore’ and walk away,” Golden said. “People are not only providing inaccurate information, but damaging information, with the ability to appear legitimate. That is not a stable place for a brand to invest.”

Compounding the problem, Golden said, is Musk himself, who has driven tumultuous changes at the company that have surprised paying customers, confused industry observers and left Twitter power users looking for the exit.

“People see the leader of this company as being erratic and unpredictable, making very rash decisions and reversing them fairly quickly,” he said. “He claims that he wants to create a successful business, then goes to great lengths to drive away advertisers who are his main source of income. … I just don’t see a world where advertisers are excited to come back and willing to commit dollars to their experiment.”

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As fake accounts multiplied on the site Thursday, Musk responded to a sexually explicit message. cheep of a fake President Biden with two crying and laughing emoji and tweeted that Twitter users had shared “Some epically funny tweets.”

However, by Friday morning, Twitter had paused its blue verification program, known as Twitter Blue, due to “Phishing issues” and began attaching “official” labels to Eli Lilly and other major corporate accounts.

On Friday night, Musk tweeted Twitter would start adding a “spoof” label to fake blue checking accounts. He also defended Eli Lilly, tweeting on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who had used forgery to draw attention to high prices for insulin, a life-saving medication, that the “price issue is complex.

Few of the country’s most prominent companies and political figures have escaped viral Twitter impersonations in recent days: former presidents (Donald Trump, George W. Bush) and giant corporations (defense contractor Lockheed MartinMusk’s carmaker Tesla) have been widely retweeted, with fake but verified badges attached.

That change has prompted some major advertisers to pull out as well. Omnicom Media Group, an advertising firm that represents corporate giants like Apple and McDonald’s, recommended clients stop all Twitter activity, saying in a memo first reported by The Verge that the “risk to our clients’ brand safety has risen sharply to a level most would find unacceptable.”

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For Eli Lilly, the bogus $8 account came as a disastrous, high-profile surprise. The Indianapolis-based conglomerate employs more than 37,000 people in 18 countries and generates $28 billion a year in revenue.

sanders and many others used the parody to highlight insulin costs, a common point of criticism of the company. When Eli Lilly’s stock price sank 4 percent on Friday, in line with a drop in other health care stocks – many Twitter users gave credit to the fake account: the “tweet cost Eli Lilly billions”, said one cheep with more than 380,000 likes. “The most important $8 in modern human history,” he said other.

Some Twitter users celebrated the accounts as modern day satire or expressed enthusiasm that Musk’s move could backfire, exposing Twitter to legal threats. Other fake but verified Eli Lilly parodies have proliferated, gaining their own wide audience before they too were discontinued: a tweeted, “Humalog is now $400. We can do this whenever we want and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

For healthcare companies like Eli Lilly, the change not only posed a reputational threat, but also the risk that other counterfeits could threaten people’s well-being. Eli Lilly’s Twitter accounts routinely answer medical questions and work to correct misinformation about side effects, health issues and long-term care.

Twitter’s change, O’Connor said, has shaken not only Eli Lilly, but many other companies who are now concerned about the risk of participating on a platform where an account’s legitimacy is no longer guaranteed.

“It’s not just about Twitter, it’s about the health of patients,” O’Connor said. What if a public health group was “misled into sharing information that made people’s diabetes worse? Where does it stop? It feels like this is literally just the beginning, and it’s only going to get worse.”

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