Elon Musk’s advertising problem deepens.
General Mills and Audi confirmed Thursday that they are halting advertising on Twitter following Musk’s acquisition of the social media company, the clearest sign yet of growing uncertainty among advertisers about the platform’s future under new ownership.
“We have paused ads on Twitter,” Kelsey Roemhild, a spokeswoman for General Mills, told CNN in a statement, making it the first company that doesn’t compete with Musk’s Tesla to confirm the move. “As always, we will continue to monitor this new direction and evaluate our marketing spend,” the spokesperson said.
In a separate statement, Audi said: “We have currently paused paid support on Twitter and will continue to assess the situation.”
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the moves, also said Pfizer and Mondalez were stopping ads on Twitter. The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The companies join General Motors, which previously said it would stop paying for advertising on Twitter while it evaluates the platform’s “new direction.” Toyota, another Tesla competitor, previously told CNN it was “in discussions with key stakeholders and monitoring the situation” on Twitter.
Ad-buying giant Interpublic Group, which works with consumer brands such as Unilever and Coca Cola, earlier this week also advised its clients to pause ads on the platform.
The impact is clearly already being felt on Twitter, like Musk tweeted that “Twitter had a huge drop in revenue due to activist groups putting pressure on advertisers” on Thursday after many of the advertising announcements were made.
After months of uncertainty about Musk’s impending acquisition, advertisers now face questions about how Musk will change the platform, which is already widespread in the digital ad space despite its immense political influence. Musk, known as both an innovative entrepreneur and a quirky figure, has promised to rethink Twitter’s content moderation policies and lift permanent bans on controversial figures, including former President Donald Trump.
This creates a challenge for brands who are sensitive to the types of content their ads are served against, a problem compounded by social media. Most marketers cringe at the thought of their ads appearing alongside toxic content such as hate speech, pornography or misinformation.
The pauses also come days before the US midterm elections, as many civil society leaders worry that disinformation and other harmful content could spread on the platform and create disruption.
Musk said he’s not a fan of advertising and is currently working to increase Twitter’s subscription revenue to boost the bottom line and be less dependent on ad sales, which account for 90% of Twitter’s total revenue. But that change won’t happen overnight, if at all. Musk has said he plans to launch an $8-a-month subscription plan that will provide users with a verification token as well as several other benefits, but the plans have faced backlash.
Meanwhile, Musk is working to prevent a possible leak of advertisers. Musk’s team spent Monday “meeting with the marketing and advertising community” in New York, according to Jason Calakanis, a member of Musk’s inner circle.
Musk also met earlier this week with a group of civil society leaders, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Free Press and the NAACP, to address concerns about the rise of hate on the platform. Representatives who attended the meeting told CNN they were encouraged by Musk’s willingness to speak and his initial commitments not to change the company’s content policies before the midterms, but urged him to take additional steps to protect the platform.
Shortly before news broke last week that his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter was complete, Musk wrote an open letter trying to reassure advertisers that he didn’t want the social network to become a “free-for-all hellish environment.”
“Basically, Twitter strives to be the world’s most respected advertising platform that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise,” he wrote. “Let’s build something extraordinary together.”
— CNN’s Peter Valdez-Dappena contributed to this report.