Anyone who has paid attention to Elon Musk over the last couple of years already knew his takeover of Twitter was going to be a disaster, but watching it play out has still been painful. Is he intentionally trying to tank his $44 billion investment? It sure feels that way because everything he’s done so far has only made it harder for advertisers, including automakers, to justify continuing to spend money on the site.
The Detroit Free Press recently posted a great summary of just how tough a spot Musk has put advertisers in. And it’s not just now-deleted cringeworthy masturbation jokes, either. He’s also threatened to go on “a thermonuclear name and shame” offensive against companies such as General Motors that decide to stop advertising on Twitter.
GM reportedly spent $1.7 million a month on Twitter ads before it decided to stop, which works out to more than $20 million a year. And now Volkswagen Group has decided to do the same thing, pulling ads from all of its brands, including Audi. It seems inevitable that more will soon follow, especially considering the fact that Musk is still the CEO of Tesla, one of their competitors.
Late last week, Musk had a call with a number of marketing executives to try to convince them to stay, and unsurprisingly, it did not go well. Lou Paskalis, head of the massively influential Mobile Marketing Association, was on the call, responded to one of Musk’s erratic tweets with some light criticism and was quickly blocked by Musk. That’s not going to play well with advertisers across the board, including the people on the MMA’s board, which includes executives from AT&T, Visa, GM, the MLB, and Unilever.
As Freep put it:
No one wants ads appearing along anti-Semitic posts or violent language because the optics are bad, unless for some strange reason that’s the demographic a company is specifically targeting. This is not about political correctness. This is about basic business strategy. The issue isn’t inherently about free speech or freedom but about crafting a brand or product that connects with the most consumers and avoids situations that alienate people.
The other issue is that by continuing to advertise on Twitter, automakers aren’t just enriching the CEO of one of their competitors. They’re also giving him valuable data and insight into their advertising strategies. Musk would also have access to information on product launches ahead of their official announcement. In Thursday’s call, he said he only cares about Tesla data, but, understandably, that vague assurance reportedly wasn’t enough to satisfy ad execs.
Sure, Elon could simply stop being a whiny man-child who throws temper tantrums over companies not wanting to be his friend anymore. He could also stop tweeting Nazi propaganda. Hell, he could even just stop tweeting altogether. But since none of that is likely to happen, he’s probably going to just have to deal with advertisers continuing to leave Twitter.