Musk: Twitter Will Cooperate On Ad Placement, But Rebuff Content Pressures

In a much-anticipated keynote interview with NBCUniversal ad chief Linda Yaccarino during the Possible conference on Tuesday, Twitter owner/CEO Elon Musk said he is fine with cooperating with advertisers on ad placements, but will draw the line at attempts to influence content policy. 

Musk said he is willing to let Twitter lose money rather than let advertisers determine “what Twitter will do.” His goal, he said, is to achieve a “sensible middle ground” between meeting advertisers’ needs — such as letting their ads be in “certain places” on Twitter, and not others — and ensuring that platform users have “their voice,” reported The Wall Street Journal

Pressed about issues of brand safety, including hate speech, Musk alluded to the policy he declared last fall — “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach” — and said that policy applies to him, as well as all other users. In his November tweet, he described the policy as “negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter… You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.” 

As revealed earlier this month, a number of CMOs at major brands had privately expressed concerns about Musk’s upcoming appearance at the Mobile Marketing Association’s (MMA) event in Miami this week. 

Some expressed particular concern about giving Musk an industry platform, given his “racist rhetoric” and the marked upswing in hate speech on Twitter since he took over, reinstated many formerly banned users, and axed the content moderation department. 

On Tuesday, Musk largely stuck to the freedom of speech/not reach message, assuring advertisers that Twitter has safeguards to prevent inappropriate speech from being near ads, with Twitter’s Community Notes serving as an additional safeguard to stem the spread of misinformation, according to tweeted coverage by investment advisor Gary Black, managing partner, the Future Fund LLC. Musk argued that these safeguards must be working, because Apple and some other major brands have continued to advertise on Twitter. 

Musk also argued that given that he was the most-viewed user on Twitter even before he acquired it, his political views should not matter to advertisers. 

Musk’s mission in speaking at the conference was to woo back advertisers for Twitter, which lost more than half of its biggest advertisers last fall due to such brand-safety concerns. As of January, Pathmatics data showed about 625 of Twitter’s previous top 1,000 advertisers still not spending on the platform, and ad revenue down about 60% since October 2022.

Earlier this month, Musk claimed in an interview that Twitter is now “roughly breaking even,” but the basis for that claim has been elusive. As Forbes noted, recent internal valuations by Twitter suggest it is worth less than half of the $44 billion Musk paid to acquire it. 

“I’m not sure if advertisers who have left TWTR because of Elon’s actions (fired people, cut costs) will suddenly return as a result of his [MMA] talk,” Black tweeted. “IMO if DAUs continue to rise, hate speech doesn’t increase, and nothing breaks, they will return for the 2024 Election and Olympics.”

2 comments about "Musk: Twitter Will Cooperate On Ad Placement, But Rebuff Content Pressures".
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  1. Joel Rubinson from Rubinson Partners, Inc., April 19, 2023 at 10:21 a.m.

    Musk was brilliant and Linda's questions were right on point. He said he is open sourcing twitter code because transparency is required for trust. He went a long way with his openness by taking questions from an SRO audience. Cancel culture mentality will subside and advertisers will come back because his vision for the platform as an integrated idea exchange, advertising, and shopping platform is so strong.

  2. Robert Rose from AIM Tell-A-Vision, April 20, 2023 at 10:27 a.m.

    I wasn't there, so I can't speak to the Musk interview. But I have remained on Twitter since Musk purchased and I can only offer my own personal anecdote. The amount of hate/disinfo/disturbing speech I'm exposed to daily since his purchase, has increased dramatically. After a user called an amputated little Ukrainian girl "a little Nazi" on one of my tweets, I reported the tweet, only to be told it didn't violate Twitter policy. I also was prompted to remove my two-step verification because I had a blue check mark but didn't pay for it. Now I'm being prompted to add it back? Musk himself, showed up on my feed relentlessly (though I did not follow him), until I blocked him. There are other instances. Chaos, confusion, hell-scape, come to mind. Musk-a-teer fanboys like Mr. Rubinson aside in the other comment, I tend to think Musk is a "net bad", not a "net good" to our social media-fueled hate culture that has real-world consequences. Again, this is not having witnessed Mr. Musk's propaganda in person, but as a non-political, everyday user and observer of Twitter in real life. It's gotten much worse... and yes, don't waste your comments - I will leave if it doesn't get better. 

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