Diabetes patient and racecar driver Charlie Kimball is sponsored by Novo Nordisk’s Levemir insulin injection. I’ve written about the Race with Insulin Twitter account, which supposedly features tweets made by Charlie, in previous posts to this blog (see “Novo Nordisk’s Branded (Levemir) Tweet is Sleazy Twitter Spam!” and “Pharma Marketers Should Stop Blaming the FDA for Their Dysfunctional Social Media Marketing Efforts“).
In response to a post I made about a branded Levemir tweet made by Charlie via his Race with Insulin account, I received this email message from a personal friend of Charlie’s: “I happen to know Charlie … I think he is a good guy and hate to see him hurt by this incident. I wonder if someone at Novo is adding in the marketing messages … Charlie made a mistake by letting it go out.”
That made me think that perhaps all the Tweets on Race with Insulin were written by Novo Nordisk or their agents. So, I did some research and found out that Charlie has another Twitter account (@charliekimball).
- @charliekimball has 163 followers (I am one) and follows 31 people
- @racewithinsulin has 169 followers and follows 0 people
This tells me that the latter account is at best a mirror of the first. In fact, you’ll find an almost one-to-one mapping of Tweets between the two. But there are slight differences. Here are some examples:
@charliekimball: “Finished 7th. Made contact with Pippa Mann halfway through after she was a lap or two off the lead. Happy with the result and the points!”
@racewithinsulin: “Finished 7th. Very pleased with the result. It was great racing under the lights! Headed back home to California tomorrow.”
@charliekimball: “Getting ready for qualifying. Still really warm and sunny.” and “Qualified 8th. Was a good job for my first time here. Racing at dusk tonight-8CST. 115 lap race- watch it live at http://bit.ly/tU67v”
@racewithinsulin: “Qualified 8th. Solid effort for my first time here. It will be a long fun 115 lap race tonight at 8CST.”
A few of the @charliekimball tweets never make it over to @racewithinsulin.
These include: “In Denver airport on my way home. No one has ABC and the race on. It’s all golf! Bleh.” and “Just had a great mountain bike ride. 1 hr. 40mins. 20 miles. 1850 feet ascended. Lots of fun!”
More importantly, some tweets made @racewithinsulin never appeared @charliekmball. The most famous one being the branded Levemir ad: “Headed for Iowa Speedway. Just took Levemir®. For Levemir® (insulin detemir [rDNA origin] injection) prescribing info: http://is.gd/15uIl”
That was posted 1:54 PM Jun 18th. A few minutes earlier, at 12:47 PM Jun 18th @charliekimball posted “At LAX headed for Iowa. Ready for the race weekend.” No mention of Levemir.
It appears that someone is selecting a sample of Charlie’s authentic tweets made @charliekimball, editing them, and adding branded messages to them when necessary.
Is this any way for a pharma brand to carry on an authentic conversation?