It was back in 2010 and one of the largest Pharma hacks happened under the watch of two former colleagues. Bob Pearson, the former Dell VP and mentor while I was with Dell. And Paul Dyer, *nytimes best selling author* and self-identified wunderkind, and most importantly, Bob’s surrogate sales associate who loved travel and was hungry for growth, money, and success.
It’s odd to see Paul’s LinkedIn profile with ZERO mention of the company the three of us worked for, WCG. Even the LinkedIn business page is no longer online. They’ve rebranded so many times, even their rebrands are gone. But the people, Bob and Paul, are quite visible and influential in marketing and more pointedly, Big Pharma Advertising.
Big Pharma Loves You
Big Pharma is a thing. It’s a bad thing. And my 7 months working within the belly of that dirty beast were enlightening as well as traumatizing. I’ll explain at the end of this post.
First is the conflict of interest with Big Pharma. In order to bring new drugs on the market, for example – a new drug to treat depression, they have to “invent” a novel idea of how a drug might help depressed patients in unique and groundbreaking ways.
Next, they have to come up with a memorable brand name like Ozembic, possibly attach a wildly popular song to the name, and boom we’re off to the races and off to the GTM, go-to-market strategy.
In the case of Ozembic, when the category is dominated, the next goal is to find off-label uses to promote. In the case of Ozembic, they are not selling boatloads of this diabetic drug for WEIGHTLOSS. Okay, so “side effects may include weight loss” has become the secret -in the open-marketing pitch for off-label Ozembic.
Finally, for the marketing department, the plan is to build TWO websites. One for prescribers and potential patients, who need the data, the studies, and the Pharma-approved literature about the drug. The second website, common in most large drug campaigns, is the consumer or community site. This one is a bit more slippery. Often the manufacturer hires the “agency” to manage this site, in a legal maneuver known as “arms-length” marketing. The idea is this, if we can fool the consumer into joining our community site around their affliction, we can market to them, innovatively, and forever.
Let me show you an example in the current landscape of 2023.
We can go back to the Ozembic brand. Let’s see how this blockbuster diabetes drug is now running out of stock for the people who need it to survive because the people who want a pill to fix their overweight lifestyle are overbuying Ozembic.
Here’s the headline from a “diabetes community site” diatribe.org.
And here is how they try and keep their marketing interests obscured, they gather all the pharma manufacturers as supporters of this “patient-focused” community and information site. (Here is the Supporter link.) This is done over and over in every lucrative pharma drug race. Every. Single. One. Heck, look at the site of the agency that created the diatribe site, Brooks Digital, their entire market is “health non-profits. Or building community sites for Pharma as a non-profit to keep the regulators at arms-length too.
Okay, so enough about the Big Pharma loves you scam, let’s talk about these characters who are so far removed from the Sanofi/Facebook hack, as to almost completely have erased the event from the internet. Googleing and GPTing didn’t bring me any results for Sanofi Facebook Hack. So, I thought I’d re-educate folks a bit about a little story, of greed, nepotism, and sacrifice.
The Pfizer/Facebook Hack
Here’s today’s Pfizer Facebook Page
And back in the day, when I was working for WCG (a company that doesn’t even appear on Mr. Dyer’s LinkedIn profile) Mr. Dyer was the lead on the Sanofi social media marketing. And get this, Paul used some dumb and guessable password for the Sanofi/US Facebook page. It was actually the nickname he used on his Google Drive account, something like Soccer99.
Well, back in the day, old Paul became the poster child of “oops, I fkd up a massive pharma client’s entire social media plans for MONTHS.” No wonder Sanofi, WCG, and Facebook don’t appear alongside Mr. Dyer’s expertise and “new york times best selling” book. About what, you ask? Marketing.
I was surprised to see Mr. Pearson’s LinkedIn profile also somewhat obscured in his WCG performance with his Sanofi snafu. In fact, Mr. Pearson asked me to remove this story from my blog (under this same URL) over 11 years ago. I complied. I was part of how they REMOVED the Sanofi Facebook Hack from the web. (Oops, I’m back. The truth needs to come out, don’t you think?) Can bad actors and pharma-backed non-profits hide their tracks from the internet? Let’s dig a little deeper into the WCG failure, the Paul Dyer emergency, and how the Facebook page taunted him for a week before they were able to regain access and replace the Dyer Skree that made Paul Dyer famous. Not the kind of fame he is too happy for you to remember or for Google to pull up.
Here’s the hacked Sanofi page, courtesy of my earlier article and screen grab.
Bad Science, Bad Faith, Bad Actors
But the story between Paul, Bob, and myself went back a year or so before the Sanofi event, in what I would name the Bayer Coup d Grace. I was tasked with building the plan for TWO Pharma websites for Bayer and a newish drug they were going to market toward RLS (restless leg syndrome). I’m not sure if that’s even a medical condition anymore, but I’m too lazy to Google and include it in this story. Anyway, I was the lead on putting the strategic GTM strategy and website plans for the Bayer site and the RLS community site, a non-profit of which Bayer was but one of the sponsors.
As we traveled to Atlanta to meet with the million-dollar-a-month client, Bayer, we had a lot of tasks on the full-day agenda. The first meeting was an agency review, “how had WCG done with the first 6 million dollars over the first 6 months?” This was Paul’s meeting. And a new account lead, replacing WCG’s sweetheart account lead, was interested in getting some figures, statistics and proof that their money was well-spent, and more importantly, if Bayer was going to continue to fund our marketing and even pay for the web work I had prepared for a meeting scheduled after lunch.
It was Paul’s show, Paul’s PPT deck, and the only reason Bob Pearson was not present for such a critical meeting, was he anointed Paul with the strategic leadership and account management of Bayer. The initial meeting was not going well for Paul.
The new account lead kept asking, as Paul was flipping through his slides with a satisfied smile, “Um, this looks like the pitch deck. What have you gotten accomplished in the last six months of work?”
The question kept coming up and interrupting Mr. Dyer’s charm. The new account lead was not a fan of his slick presentation that contained ZERO progress on the things we said we would do for Bayer’s core business. The big project, the new drug sites, was my presentation, set for 2 pm that afternoon.
Paul began to sweat. His smile became less confident. And his youth and inexperience appeared exposed and unremarkable under the scrutiny of the new lead and the impressively well-lit conference room. Also in the room, I should probably mention, was another Bob Pearson acolyte, Bob Blount, the head of client success. He was there only to assure that Bayer and the new lead got the service and smiles they deserved. Bob #2 was silent as Paul was being roasted for his old Bayer sales deck.
Why I spoke up in *that* meeting is more of a mystery to me now than it was to me at the moment. Though I didn’t like Paul, I was ashamed of the beating WCG and our team were taking, due to his miscalculation and the unwavering scrutiny of the new guard.
Where My Work Came In
“We have got a lot of primary research to show you later this afternoon in the strategy and planning of the new website,” I said, throwing Paul, and *Bob 2* a lifeline. And for a few minutes, they humored me. It was interesting data, and a lot of work we had done for this future web launch, and the account lead was interested in what she had gotten for the six million WCG that had already been paid. My data was paused until the web meeting, several hours later. Our big strategy sync with the new client lead did not go well at all. Our entire group retired to lunch, but things were still quite tense through lunch and at the opening of my web meeting.
Then it was time for my show. I prepared a PPT deck with research, plans, and website mockups of the TWO websites we were proposing. And while the PPT deck had been created by myself and the website account lead on the WCG side, and presented and vetted by Bob Pearson and Paul Dyer back in Austin, the Bayer team was hostile and unimpressed. The woman still wanted to see the results for the money she’d already spent. Not what we were going to do.
Here was the team from WCG’s side as we were presenting to Bayer about Neupro, the drug I was charged with web development on. Notice, my name is not on this list. I was “the web guy.” This term will be referenced later, fyi.
And this was not a small piece of business for WCG.
So, with all of this money on the line, and the two highest leaders of WCG below Bob Pearson in the room, why was it that Paul and Bob 2 were failing so miserably at their presentation and justification for what Bayer had already spent with WCG? Bob 2 was willing to let Dyer roast. He was an ornamental figurehead and had zero understanding of the projects involved, much less the work we’d already supposedly done for WCG prior to the Neupro project I was going to lay out in my meeting.
A few hours after my stressful meeting, our team caught a cab together on the way back to the Atlanta airport to head back to Austin. I was in the cab with Bob 2 and Mark Bennett, my co-creator and lead on the Neupro portion of the Bayer business. I tried to get some insight into how they thought the meetings went as we drove to the airport.
We split up at the terminal as I was flying a different airline. I missed my flight back to Austin and was put up in a really shabby Red Roof Inn in a seedy part of Atlanta, near the airport.
As I was boarding my plane the next morning, I received a notification that Bob Pearson had left a message for me. I listened to the voicemail as we were waiting for takeoff.
“Do not contact Bayer in any capacity. I hear the meeting went poorly, and we don’t want any further damage to occur.” I’m guessing Bob 2 and Paul told a different story than the one I just related. I called Mark Bennett immediately, and asked, “What the fk is going on? You were in the same meetings I was in. Where is this coming from?”
Turns out the new lead wanted a pound of flesh for Paul’s miserable accountability and sales deck. And I was the sacrificial scapegoat. I was fired for the lack of leadership in the Bayer meeting. The woman asked Mark, “What was the web guy doing in the meeting anyway?”
And boom. Mark failed to come to any aid when the bus was aimed in my direction. Bob 2 met me on Saturday to get my badge and laptop.
“But Bob, you were in the room. You saw what happened? How is that my fault?” As before, he was a pawn and knew very little. He was tasked with getting my laptop and badge. Bob Pearson was happy to have an infantryman do his work.
But I wouldn’t go silently. I called Bob Pearson upon touchdown in Austin. At first, he refused to meet, but eventually, he met me over coffee near the office for a debrief.
“It is out of my hands,” Bob Pearson said, looking directly into my eyes. He was lying. It was his business, his client, and his “boy” that he needed to protect. He didn’t want to have to hit the road for sales like he had done is his 30s and 40s. Leave that shit for Paul. He needed Paul a lot more than he needed me. I was expendable.
“You know that’s not right. You approved my Neupro deck. You approved Mark’s contributions to my Neupro deck. And the ENTIRE meeting was about the account and our accounting. Very little of the meeting, 1 hour out of 5, was devoted to the web.”
I threatened to sue for wrongful termination the following week and WCG legal doubled my severance. Let’s just say, I don’t use Bob or Bob 2 as a reference anywhere in my LinkedIn portfolio. And, if you look at my LinkedIn profile you will see, that like Paul Dyer, I no longer list WCG as an employer. They’ve been demoted, in my seven months there, to a contract client of my freelance business. Paul, on the other hand, simply erased the entire job from his LinkedIN experience. I’m not sure how this doesn’t create a gap in his employment history, but I’m also not sure how “new york times bestseller” can be applied to a vanity published book, that was most likely launched with a “ny times best seller guaranteed package” much like Bob Pearson’s first book was. I think they are under the same vanity imprint.
And one final torch for bad actor Bob Blount a former Dell colleague. During a conversation, months before the Bayer beheading, he mentioned one of his big wins while at Dell. The project, Dell Multimedia Works, is a sales-enablement CD-Rom that I developed for ad agency SicolaMartin. When I heard him mention DMW I paused and said, “What? You worked on Dell Multimedia Works, the CD-Rom?” I was surprised. I had never heard his name before WCG. I didn’t reveal my hand at that point, but I quietly disconnected from him on LinkedIn.
Here are two references for this story that were running concurrently with my original post here on Uber.la after I was sacrificed at WCG. I don’t recall if they kept the business after Paul’s flameout and my firing, but my friends on the team relayed their dismay as the Austin group of the agency went into major damage control over the following months. My friend, said at a lunch several months later, “We were all told one thing. But then the work they were having us do, was more like backfill for stuff we should’ve already done. None of it was about the Neupro website.”
- Pfizer If You’re So Smart, How Come You Were Hacked by Kiddies? – Pharma Marketing Blog
- Four Lessons We Should Learn from the Facebook Hack – Pharma Marketing Blog
- Why Hackers Targetted Pfizer – CBS News
- Pfizer’s Facebook Page Hacked – Digital Pharma
Give my love and regards to Bob Pearson, Bob Blount, and uber-chump Paul Dyer, who’s face was featured on the Pfizer hacked page for about three days. Fun times.
John McElhenney — let’s connect online
@jmacofearth & Facebook & LinkedIn & The Whole Parent