When Elon Musk successfully took over Twitter, he detonated the equivalent of a nuclear bomb right in the very heart of the internet, and now major advertisers are firing back, declaring what amounts to economic warfare against the Tesla founder, with rival automotive manufacturer, General Motors (GM), leading the charge.
As Musk settles into his new role as “Chief Twit,” GM announced it has “temporarily paused” its paid advertising on Twitter while it assesses “the direction” the social media platform will take under its new leadership.
Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in! pic.twitter.com/D68z4K2wq7
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2022
“We are engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership,” GM spokesman David Barnes said in a Friday statement. “As is normal course of business with a significant change in a media platform, we have temporarily paused our paid advertising.”
And according to the New York Times, GM may not be the only advertiser to pull out of the platform — especially if former President Donald Trump is allowed back on Twitter to exercise his Constitutional right to freedom of speech.
In an email, advertising industry guru Bob Hoffman of the Ad Contrarian newsletter wondered if advertisers on Twitter would now be dealing with the Elon Musk that is known to be a savvy businessman or the Elon Musk who declared he is a “free speech absolutist.”
If you wondered what advertisers think of the consumers they sell to, Hoffman’s remarks are enlightening, to say the least.
“If it’s the ‘free-speech absolutist,’ he’s in big trouble,” he wrote. “If Twitter becomes the go-to platform for the knucklehead brigade, advertisers will run, not walk.”
In other words, if “knuckleheads” are allowed to think and speak freely, advertisers would rather find more controlled, compliant consumers on which to push their products.
The unspoken message, however, is that advertisers no longer believe they must work to prove themselves worthy of your hard-earned money. They, like the liberal media and politicians, want complete control over the global narrative, and if they can’t have that, they’ll take their toys elsewhere.
According to Hoffman, few advertisers have ever seen Twitter as an essential ad buy — unlike on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, where advertising is considered mandatory for a company that wants to be successful — and Musk’s ascension to the head of the platform may be the excuse they’ve been looking for to leave.
“Twitter occupies a different place in the social media pantheon,” he stated. “This is a difficult position to be in because any reason to bail is reason enough.”
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) October 28, 2022
Fearing hate speech and conspiracy theories, two anonymous advertising executives told The Times that they, too, had clients who planned to hit the pause button on Twitter placements. Others stated they would consider abandoning the platform altogether if Trump is allowed to resume tweeting.
“The attitude is more or less just wait and watch,” said Arun Kumar, chief data and technology officer at advertising giant IPG, of his clients. “Advertisers still share the same concerns around content moderation that existed before, and, given the economic environment right now, any missteps and there will be quick reactions.”
Musk trolls NY Times over hit piece on him: ‘a new, chaotic actor in global politics…’ https://t.co/kDnO3LgSa5
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) October 27, 2022
More than 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue comes from ad sales, which totaled $2.18 billion in the first half of this year. Among the top advertisers are HBO, Mondelez, Amazon, IBM, and PepsiCo, and now, even HBO’s future on the platform is questionable.
In a statement to The Times, HBO said it “will be assessing the platform under its new leadership” and will “determine appropriate next steps.”
But to fully understand the real motives behind all this “assessing” from advertisers, one must look to the companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores.
GM, for example, has asked its suppliers to sign a pledge “advancing global climate action and human rights.”
“The Environmental, Social and Governance Partnership Pledge is unique because it calls for social and governance commitments, such as human rights protections and fair operating practices,” GM stated.
“By signing the pledge,” the company continued, “suppliers commit to,” among other things, “achieving a minimum score of 50 in the EcoVadis Sustainable Procurement pillar, which covers how GM’s suppliers understand and govern the social and environmental practices of their own suppliers and use their purchasing influence to advance sustainability” by 2025.
A company’s ESG rating is more than just a virtue signal — it’s a weapon.
ESG determines which suppliers will receive contracts and which will be considered pariahs.
So, make no mistake, General Motors’ “pause” on paid advertising isn’t just a break to reassess their ad budget, it’s a direct threat to Elon Musk and the future of Twitter: Play ball, it screams, or GM will use its considerable “purchasing influence” to ensure every one of its suppliers and stakeholders won’t spend a dime with you.
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