Elon Musk, the owner of X (formerly Twitter), recently responded with a mix of contrition and defiance to the advertisers withdrawing their investments.
Amidst controversies involving his support of an antisemitic tweet and rising hate speech on the platform, Musk’s retort was both profane and unyielding.
Musk blasts advertiser’s in hostile response
A video from an event in New York showcased Musk’s blunt message to advertisers: “Don’t advertise,” he declared during an on-stage interview.
His words escalated to a direct challenge, “If someone’s going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go [expletive] yourself.”
This statement came after he briefly acknowledged a regrettable tweet from 15 November, which he admitted might be his worst among numerous “foolish” posts, including one from 2018 resulting in a $40m fine from the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Musk’s Apology and Subsequent Antagonism
Musk’s brief admission of regret quickly turned into characteristic combativeness. Speaking at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit, he vehemently denied accusations of antisemitism and expressed his disdain for the departing advertisers with repeated expletives.
At one point, he directly addressed Robert Iger, the CEO of Walt Disney, among the companies that withdrew ads from X, saying, “Hey, Bob.”
Impact of Advertiser Exodus
The departure of significant advertisers like Apple, IBM, and Coca-Cola could potentially lead to revenue losses of up to $75m for X.
This departure was triggered by a Media Matters report linking primary brand advertisements with pro-Nazi content on the platform and was further fueled by Musk’s agreement with an antisemitic tweet.
Despite acknowledging the potentially disastrous impact of the advertising boycott on X, which he acquired for $44bn in October last year, Musk remained defiant, saying, “What this advertising boycott is going to do is, it is going to kill the company.
And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company.”
Efforts to Reassure Advertisers
In the aftermath of Musk’s remarks, Linda Yaccarino, X’s CEO, attempted to reassure advertisers about the platform’s potential. “X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street – and the X community is powerful and is here to welcome you,” she stated.
However, industry experts like Sir Martin Sorrell of S4 Capital and Lou Paskalis of AJL Advisory have expressed skepticism, noting that Musk’s actions complicate their efforts and heighten reputational risks for advertisers.
Bankruptcy as a Potential Outcome
Some analysts even suggest bankruptcy might be a favorable outcome for X. Joseph Teasdale from Enders Analysis.
They opine that the platform could be restored to its former state under new management with enhanced moderation and content controls, thereby becoming more attractive to advertisers.
Musk’s Unpredictable Leadership
Musk’s recent actions are part of a series of unpredictable decisions since he took over X. These actions have increasingly alarmed advertisers, crucial to the platform’s revenue.
Following the backlash on X, Musk also visited Israel and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Despite the timing, Musk clarified that this trip was pre-planned and not directly related to the ongoing controversy.
In summary, Elon Musk’s latest actions and statements continue to stir debate and concern among advertisers and stakeholders, underscoring X’s ongoing challenges under his leadership.