Eli Lilly pulls Twitter ads after blue check fallout: report

Eli Lilly’s stock tanked 6% over just one day late last week, wiping billions of dollars from its market cap amid a single tweet from a fake account that was verified by Twitter. Now, Lilly is getting its own back on the social media platform by pulling ads from the site.

On Nov.10, an account pretending to be Lilly’s corporate account tweeted: “We are excited to announced insulin is free now.”

Over the years, lots of fake accounts have pretended to be corporate users, but this fake account was created through the new Twitter Blue paid option. The blue checkmarks used to be Twitter’s way of authenticating an account, which it did for free. But under new owner Elon Musk, anyone can now get a blue check without any verification by simply paying $8 a month.

The Twitter Blue subscription idea received major blowback from companies and advertisers. Last Friday, Twitter said it was pausing the program, with Musk tweeting over the weekend that it would, however, be back "probably end of next week."

Either way, the blue tick on a fake account had already hit Lilly particularly hard. The blue tick made the fake account—under the username @EliLillyandCo—look like Lilly’s real account, and it gained 10,000 likes and thousands of retweets within hours of posting.

And while Twitter removed the offending tweet—around six hours later—many other fake Eli Lilly copycats popped up. This led to heightened press coverage and wiped out some 6% of Lilly's market value, considering Lilly is one of the largest insulin and drugmakers in the world. Other major insulin makers Sanofi and Novo Nordisk were also caught up in the crossfire, with their stock prices dipping and questions over the high cost of a lifesaving medicine being reignited.

Now, a clearly angry Lilly is pulling ads from Twitter, as per a report from The Washington Post.

According to two anonymous Lilly employees talking to the Post, the Big Pharma’s execs have now ordered a halt to all Twitter ad campaigns, while also hitting pause for now on its Twitter publishing plan for all corporate accounts around the world.

“For $8, they’re potentially losing out on millions of dollars in ad revenue,” said Amy O’Connor, a former senior communications official at Eli Lilly who now works at a trade association, in an interview with 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.”

Lilly is not responding publicly to the debacle, only saying last week in a statement that it was “in contact” with Twitter about the offending tweet. However, the Indianapolis drugmaker was forced to apologize last Thursday via its official account to its 130,000 followers for the fake insulin tweet, a rare act from such a major company, especially when it was through no fault of its own.