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Adland’s reaction to Musk’s $44bn Twitter deal: ‘a major disruption to its ad business’


By Kenneth Hein, US Editor

April 25, 2022 | 6 min read

Elon Musk didn’t hide the fact that he wanted control of Twitter and now, $44bn later, he has it. The world’s richest man and hardcore free speech advocate, Musk said in a statement: “Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.” So how could this impact brands and agencies? Here’s what top agency executives had to say.


Adland reacts as Twitter flies to Elon Musk

Consumers may not be interested if Twitter becomes the wild, wild west

Karen Benson, executive vice-president/director of integrated media, Deutsch New York

The idea that Elon Musk is going to solve the ‘free speech issue’ on Twitter is something that brands need to be mindful of when they think about content their brands align with. [This is] coupled with the potential that consumers may not be as engaged or weary of the platform if it becomes the wild west. Also, what will the role of ads be on Twitter with Musk at the helm? He has mentioned a subscription-type model – does that mean more data for advertisers?

Alex Watts, head of social, DDB Sydney

For brands, there are really two big watch-outs from Elon buying twitter – safety and community. Will the hard work the platform has done to be a brand safe space be committed to or left behind, and will brands be comfortable with the new editorial direction of the channel? From a community perspective, we have to wonder what changes will happen to Twitter’s user base under Musk’s ownership, and if that audience will remain as valuable to marketers as they are right now. Twitter has a relatively low user base compared to Meta or TikTok, but has always provided outsize cultural impact – will that stay the same?

Changes in both these spaces will only appear over time, but we have to consider other great social network takeovers – such as Tumblr or MySpace – that failed to gain momentum under different leadership. The people are what make these platforms successful at the end of the day, and we’ll see if the people who use Twitter will appreciate Musk’s vision.

Danielle Wiley, chief executive, Sway Group

Right now we are taking a wait-and-see approach. A lot of users have been threatening to leave the platform, which could be very alarming to advertisers who have sponsored content initiatives scheduled. That said, a similar exodus scare happened with Spotify in response to the Joe Rogen controversy, and that never came to fruition – at least not to the extent that had been hyped.

There will be more pressure on brands to battle disinformation

Aaron Kwittken, founder/chairman, KWT Global

The larger, more problematic impact will be on society, not brands and advertisers per se. Brands will need likely need to double down on countering and tamping down the copious amounts of hate, misinformation and disinformation to follow an unstable genius’s takeover of the platform. If Musk really wanted to help the world he would have bought Twitter only to shut it down.

Jon Morgernstern, senior vice-president, head of investment, VaynerMedia

It is a wild moment, no doubt. At least in the near-term (and once the sale is completed), knowing Elon’s somewhat ‘absolutist’ stance on free speech, the biggest question for us will be around potential Twitter platform policy shifts on the subject. Namely, if any/all users who under Twitter’s current terms were deemed ‘in violation’ (and thus banned) will be allowed back unfettered on the platform. Should this take place, there will be various brand safety/suitability concerns that we will need to closely monitor and adjust for on behalf of our clients as they arise.

A major disruption to Twitter’s ad business

Collin Arnold, creative strategy director, Code and Theory

Twitter under Elon Musk will test the limits of acceptable free speech and attempt to democratize the platform by putting more power into the hands of users. As a result, brands will need to meaningfully reconsider the utility, motivations and relevance of their content to stand out in a more meritocratic landscape.

Jon Morgernstern, senior vice-president, head of investment, VaynerMedia

In the longer term, with Elon’s prior stated viewpoint in mind, we are preparing for the possibility of fairly major disruption to Twitter’s advertising business, including a future where its capabilities are somewhat sizably diminished – particularly from a targeting and tracking/attribution standpoint. This also extends to the possible deprecation of large swaths of functionality entirely, in exchange for the adoption and push for a more subscription- or service-oriented monetization future.

Twitter to become more premium?

Anthony Hamelle, executive director, digital and social, TBWA\Chiat\Day NY

Elon Musk has not pulled any punches toward Twitter’s past and current management with respect to monetization. Among other things, he argues that the platform, owing to its prime position with key public, political and corporate figures, could yield higher advertising returns, probably in the form of more premium CPCs or CPMs. That’s a very good approach, but one that might be at odds with his apparent willingness to make Twitter, once more, into the free speech platform, therefore chipping at brand safety. That’s definitely where the challenge will lie.

Erica Patrick, senior vice-president, director of paid social, Mediahub

[There will be] new opportunities. With the amount of press and speculation, and with Elon being Elon, I am assuming there will be some changes that are rolled out. While he marches to his own beat, his reputation for innovation is well earned and may bring exciting opportunities to the platform that accelerate growth.

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