A fake tweet by an account impersonating the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly sparked a panic at the company and may cost Twitter millions, The Washington Post reports.
New Twitter owner Elon Musk rolled out a new “verification” system that allowed anyone to secure a blue verified checkmark for $8 without providing any identification. As a result, numerous fake accounts impersonating major companies and people began to spread.
“We are excited to announce insulin is free now,” the fake account tweeted.
The actual company was forced to issue an apology after the tweet went viral.
"We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account," the company said.
Eli Lilly pulls ads:
Inside the company, officials scrambled to pressure Twitter to remove the account and by Friday ordered a halt to all Twitter ads.
“For $8, they’re potentially losing out on millions of dollars in ad revenue,” Amy O’Connor, a former senior communications official at Eli Lilly, told the Post. “What’s the benefit to a company … of staying on Twitter? It’s not worth the risk when patient trust and health are on the line.”
Other companies have also pulled ads. Omnicom, an ad firm that represents corporate giants like McDonald's and Apple, recommended clients halt their Twitter ads.
Twitter ads have never been a “must-buy” for companies, Jenna Golden, who previously ran Twitter’s ad-sales team, told the Post.
With the new verification system, “it’s making it really easy for advertisers to say: ‘You know what, I don’t need to be here anymore,’ and walk away,” Golden said. “People are not just providing inaccurate information but damaging information, with the ability to look legitimate. That is just not a stable place for a brand to invest.”
“People see the leader of this company who is erratic and unpredictable, who is making very knee-jerk decisions and rolling them back quite quickly,” she added. “He claims he wants to create a successful business, then does everything he can to turn off the advertisers that are its main revenue stream. … I just don’t see a world in which advertisers are going to be excited to come back and willing to commit dollars to his experiment.”