AUSTIN, TX – When Jeep President and CEO Mike Manley cracks that his brand is not owned by Cadillac in front of a group of automotive writers at a media test drive here, only a few people catch on to the joke.
The fact that a small minority chuckles while others look confused speaks volumes to how little damage, if any, a Twitter hack has caused.
Pranksters took hold of Jeep’s profile on the social-networking website earlier this week, changing the logo to Cadillac’s emblem and tweeting inappropriate photos. They also used foul language and made a declaration that thebrand had assumed ownership of Jeep.
Jeep wasn’t the only brand to come under attack by hackers. On the prior day, pranksters commandeered Burger King’s Twitter site, swapping in a McDonald’s logo and tweeting out rap lyrics for a few hours. It’s not known if the two incidents were related.
For, it’s the second time one of its social-media accounts has stirred controversy. The first was in 2011, during the auto maker’s -inspired image makeover beginning with the “Imported From Detroit” Super Bowl commercial.
A marketing agency staffer handling Chrysler’s social media accidentally tweeted from the auto maker’s primary account that Detroit drivers “don’t know how to (expletive) drive.” The faux pas lingered in the media for weeks, led to the firing of the employee and the termination of the relationship between Chrysler and the agency.
Some might consider this week’s incident déjà vu, as Jeep was prominent during this year’s Super Bowl with an Oprah Winfrey-voiced dedication to the U.S. military. But here in Texas, officials shrug off the incident with a general sentiment that “it happens.”
Executives were briefed about the hack and how to respond to media, but the incident didn’t spoil events here. “Petty people, these hackers. A waste of skill!” SRT President and CEO Ralph Gilles tweeted from his own account.
Speaking by phone from the auto maker’s Auburn Hills, MI, headquarters, Chrysler head of electronic-media communications Ed Garsten tells WardsAuto that Ignite Social Media, which now handles the auto maker’s online branding, was able to quickly neutralize the situation by contacting Twitter directly and taking back control of the Jeep account.
“It was less than an hour,” he says, compared with the Burger King incident where it took officials nearly half a day to gain control of their Twitter site after it was compromised.
Garsten says information about future or potential product isn’t housed on any of Ignite’s servers, although the company is given advance information about some products in order to create campaigns for them. Other sensitive information is protected by non-disclosure agreements between the auto maker and the agency.
But there’s no guarantee that a hack can’t happen again. “The only security you have on a third-party site is doing a good job at choosing and changing your passwords,” he says, noting Chrysler’s social-media team changes its passwords regularly and doesn’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
“The Internet is a lawless society out there,” Garsten says. “Things are going to happen, and you just have to deal with it. If you’re going to get upset every time something happens, then that’s probably not the place for you to play.”