Elon Musk’s Latest Comments Spur Brands to Quiet Quit X


As though there wasn’t already enough risk for brands advertising on X, formerly Twitter, Elon Musk has now given ad buyers more reasons to consider stopping their investments on the platform.

Musk called out Disney CEO Bob Iger at The New York Times’ DealBook Summit on Wednesday, as well as saying that advertisers leaving the platform will kill it. To avoid similar criticism, more brands are opting to quietly quit X rather than publicly announce their reduction in investment.

“You don’t incinerate the advertiser,” said one media exec, requesting anonymity to speak freely. “You don’t detonate the bridge when someone wants a bit of distance.”

A growing list of advertisers has publicly stopped buying ads on X over the last few weeks due to brand safety and adjacency concerns, including Apple, Comcast, Disney, IBM, Lions Gate Entertainment, NBCUniversal, Paramount Global and Warner Bros Discovery. But Musk’s latest tirade could seriously hamper any further public stances.

“For every one [brand] announcing publicly, another 10 will be quietly [quitting] so they don’t get called out,” said Lou Paskalis, founder and CEO of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory and former head of global media at Bank of America.

Rather than pulling their ads and presence from the platform entirely, brands are more likely to significantly reduce their investments to avoid undue attention. Marketers’ concern is that Musk “will use his bully pulpit if or when they decide to move away from the platform,” Paskalis added.

“Those who didn’t run for the hills or leave quietly are now in a tougher spot,” said the first exec. “Brands’ only choice is to let their flights run out and hope not to be singled out.”

Among brands investing more than $1 million in advertising through October 2023, AT&T, Coca-Cola and GM have reduced year-over-year spending on X by over 90%, according to the most recent data from MediaRadar. Following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, companies have been more cautious about the platform. Brands like the NFL are still advertising on the platform; the sports league did not return requests for comment.

More granular data on brands’ ad spend on X is tricky because it’s a private company. Estimates from third-party firms are also flawed because they often have a longer lag time.

“We’ve already seen a decline in our clients advertising on X, with most of them now having withdrawn,” said Mobbie Nazir, chief strategy officer at We Are Social. “This has happened over the last few months, with decisions often being made at a corporate level.” 

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