Poor Pfizer. It's the world's biggest company in an industry that people love to criticize. That pretty much guarantees the drugmaker's logo is a shooting target. And that, in turn, explains why some computer hackers decided to jump onto Pfizer's ($PFE) Facebook page and wreak havoc.
As BNet Pharma points out, the hackers' outraged postings contain inaccuracies concerning the Trovan controversy, a 15-year-old scandal that has made plenty of headlines already. So the hackers didn't raise anything new or expose anything. It appears they were looking for an after-the-fact excuse for their hacking, rather than hacking out of righteous indignation.
Still, the episode prompted Pfizer to pull its Facebook page and touched off some hand-wringing in pharma marketing, which is already spooked by the whole social media milieu. And perhaps more important, it exposed another of Facebook's giant security holes. As Bruce Grant of Digitas told Pharmalot, "[T]he hack was not something that Pfizer could have prevented, since the security issues were all on Facebook's end." We don't know enough about computer security to argue the question, so we'll take his word for it.
Pfizer spokesman Ray Kerins said the company won't back off social media because of the incident. "We are committed to clear and transparent communication and, for that reason, Pfizer has maintained an industry-leading position in the area of social and digital media for the last year or so," Kerins told MarketWatch. That's debatable, and given pharma's toe-in-the-water approach to social media, not saying much. But if the company does share what it discovers about the Facebook hack--and does, as it promises Pharmalot, "take this as a learning experience"--it could actually help the rest of the industry. Unfortunately for Pfizer, that won't take the target off its back.