Twitter’s Elon Musk saga continues, and there are signs that the longer it drags on, the more brands will be weary of committing big ad bucks to the platform. Over the summer, some brands even retrenched from the service, including Kraft Heinz, Disney, Verizon and Nestlé, vastly reducing advertising on Twitter.
Top advertising executives told Ad Age that Twitter is struggling while it fights to close its deal with Musk. And Musk is very much considered a wild card who could scare off advertisers that could look to cut parts of their budgets in anticipation of leaner economic times, anyway. Some brands have already limited Twitter ad campaigns, according to data from Pathmatics, the digital ad analytics platform. For instance, from June to September this year, Verizon spent $2.5 million on Twitter ads, compared to $7.9 million in the same period in 2021, according to the firm. Pathmatics data is by no means a full picture about the state of Twitter's ad business, and there are positive indicators, too, including brands that have ramped up spending.
A person familiar with Verizon’s media plan said the pullback was partly affected by Twitter’s spat with Musk. “Verizon did cut their spend and a lot of brands definitely pulled back,” said the ad exec, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Brands started putting more money into TikTok, and that’s been a switch for a lot of them, because there has been this big unknown with what’s going on at Twitter.” A Verizon spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
The Twitter turmoil has become one of the biggest stories in advertising. The prospect of the dynamic billionaire owning the influential platform was first met with some excitement that perhaps he could energize interest in the service. But Musk’s takeover attempt has become more of a circus attraction, and it’s undoubtedly affected Twitter’s work.
This weekend brought a fresh example of how social media, celebrity, politics and hateful content play out in bizarre ways on Twitter, and Musk always seems to find his way into the scrum. On Saturday, Musk tweeted to Kanye West, “Welcome back to Twitter, my friend.” West had just been restricted from Instagram, for unspecified content violations, and seemed to want to pick up his social media activity on Twitter. The famed artist was quicky penalized on Twitter, though, after tweeting that he would go “death con 3 on Jewish people.” The oblique tweet continued: “You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone who opposes your agenda.”
Claims of Jewish-controlled conspiracies are hallmarks of Anti-Semitic tropes. Musk tweeted at West before the artist sent his offending message. The whole incident was a reminder of why brands have asked all internet companies for a clear accounting of offensive speech within their services. Advertisers worry that permissive attitudes toward certain speech could degrade the quality of any platform. “The fear is it becomes a giant version of Truth Social,” said one advertising executive, who has been following Musk’s interest in Twitter. Truth Social is the public messaging app backed by former President Donald Trump. “It’s not about conservative trolls or liberal trolls,” this ad exec said. “The fear is that it just becomes so politicized, that it becomes a lightening rod that brands don’t want to be next to.”
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment for this story.