Elon Musk’s X vs. Advertisers. Something’s Gotta Give

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X is in trouble again with advertisers after Elon Musk’s latest controversial tweet.

  • Advertisers have had a long history of a love-hate relationship with X since Musk took over.
  • Major companies are boycotting the platform until something changes.
  • Outraged, right-wing influencers pledged thousands to support Musk.

Major companies are pulling their advertisements from Elon Musk’s X and are pressuring its sitting CEO, Linda Yaccarino, to step down. But how did we get here?

It’s been a little over a year since Elon Musk took over Twitter, now rebranded as X. But it has felt like a decade, what with the rollercoaster that is Elon Musk. Since that fateful day, advertisers have found it difficult to remain on the platform.

Right after the acquisition, two major advertising firms, Interpublic Group of Cos. and Havas Media, advised their clients to temporarily halt paid advertising on Twitter. And it’s been downhill from here.

Highlights from throughout the past year:

  • Several household brands, including General Mills and Pfizer Inc., temporarily paused their X advertising.
  • Musk tried to assure advertisers that the platform wouldn’t become “a free-for-all hellscape.”
  • X tries to lure back advertisers with a one-year deal with Integral Ad Science (IAS) for ad-verification technology.
  • Several brands suspended their advertisements on the platform as the ads were reportedly run on a pro-Nazi account.
  • The platform tried to attract smaller businesses with a one-time ad credit of $250 for select businesses spending $1,000 or more on new ad campaigns.
  • X announced that it will now allow political advertising in the U.S. from candidates and political parties ahead of the 2024 elections.
  • Fact-checking notes on the platform angered advertisers as the “Community Notes” allowed volunteers to call out users and advertisers for false information and advertisements.
  • X discontinued its Promoted Accounts feature, which gave advertisers the option of a text-based ad with a Follow button.

All this is to say that Musk and advertisers don’t see eye to eye. So, it comes as no surprise that major companies, including Apple, Disney, and IBM, pulled their advertising from X after Musk amplified an antisemitic trope on the platform.

In addition, according to Media Matters for America, a non-profit watchdog group, ads from Apple, Oracle, NBC Universal, and Comcast’s Xfinity were appearing alongside pro-Nazi content on X.

Not 24 hours later, both IBM and Apple paused all advertising on the platform. What followed was a domino effect. Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery, Comcast, and Lionsgate joined the boycott. Even the EU had something to say. They cited the rise of hate speech on X, the platform’s failure to adequately address the issue, and Musk’s own behavior.

In response to the boycott, various right-wing media companies and influencers pledged to support Musk by advertising on X. The list includes Babylon Bee, Tim Pool, Benny Johnson, The Quartering, Donut Operator, Gavin McInnes, Elijah Schaffer, and Andrew Tate.

Despite their best efforts, their combined pledges amount to less than the revenue lost from the departing major brands.

Finally, in the middle of all this, these major companies are pressuring X CEO Yaccarino to step down to save the reputation that she worked for years to cultivate. However, believing in X’s goals, she’s holding strong.

Musk had hired Yaccarino with the clear intent of bringing back advertisers who had stopped spending their money on the platform. But, for now, things are not looking good. For X, Elon, and Linda, these are difficult times as they are stuck between profit and having the whole world rely on the platform to show them what other platforms won’t. 

And as the boycott gathers pace; Musk threatens Media Matters with a “thermonuclear lawsuit.”

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