Twitter had a rough month under new owner Elon Musk, as did major companies – General Motors, United Airlines, REI, etc. – ads stopped.
Concerns about the site’s functionality are one problem, but there has also been a spike in hate speech on the website, according to the Center to Counter Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that study online platforms.
Concerns about misinformation and unsavory content, in part related to Musk’s reinstatement of previously banned accounts, have raised concerns from some companies that don’t want to be associated with unsavory posts.
There are still many companies still advertising on the site, due to strong audience engagement and Twitter saying it will continue to protect content.
Q: Should businesses pause Twitter ads?
Lynn Reeser, Economist
YES: Advertisers need to protect their brand names and the Twitter link is now a significant risk. Musk’s battle with Tim Cook raises questions about his leadership. Legitimate users dominate the site, but there is an undercurrent of inflammatory content and fake news. Musk fired content moderation staff while others resigned en masse. There is a question of whether the company can control the content under non-permanent management.
Phil Blair, Manpower
YES: Companies are now held accountable by their customers for their support of any advertising media they choose to use. Until Twitter stops being so erratic, companies that want to protect their reputations shouldn’t advertise.
Gary London, London Moeder Advisors
YES: Elon Musk is my innovation hero. But like other great business barons before him (think Henry Ford), he apparently believes he now has the license and wisdom to go off the deep end, using the Twitter purchase to save his version of the world. It’s only fitting that advertisers send him the message, which is “stick to your knitting”! This can help him concentrate on solving the Mars problem.
Alan Ginn, University of San Diego
No entry this week.
Bob Rauch, RA Rauch & Associates
NO: Unless you’re more about politics and less about return on ad spend, now is the time to negotiate a great deal for your company to advertise with Twitter. The company offers matching advertising dollars up to $1 million. Elon Musk is not a right wing nut, he is a businessman. So my recommendation is to vote for return on ad spend. Your morale will not be compromised, but your business may benefit.
Kirti Gupta, Qualcomm
No entry this week.
James Hamilton, University of California, San Diego
NO: I am deeply disturbed by the fragmentation of America into isolated groups who do not want to speak or be heard. When Twitter banned the spread of provably true facts to protect people in power, it only made the problem worse. This kind of self-serving censorship only deepens mistrust and misunderstanding. The proposed Twitter boycott is not about hate speech. This is a coordinated effort by those in power to overthrow Elon Musk.
Austin Neudecker, Weave Growth
NO: While I’m not a fan of Twitter’s inconsistent moderation, advertising decisions are up to individual companies. Businesses first compare customer acquisition costs by advertising channel. Increasingly, they must also consider the public relations implications; Do you want your brand to appear next to a hateful message? If the chaos continues, I would not want my companies to spend money that amplifies harmful speech. Ultimately, Twitter’s content moderation decisions will determine its future.
Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health
YES: I am a supporter of free speech, but as a healthcare provider I also believe that misinformation can hurt and even kill. Companies have the right and duty to ensure that their advertising content and the media in which it is placed reflects the core values of their board, shareholders and customers. Choosing not to advertise on Twitter or other media is an expression of these values. They should be praised for putting principles above profits, not criticized.
Norm Miller, University of San Diego
NO: I don’t use or read tweets. I would never see an ad like that. Ads must be targeted to the target audience. I have no idea how many user profiles match targeted vs general ads. I guess all ads today are targeted and if so, the advertiser should be able to focus on those individuals that suit their business. This decision has little to do with Elon Musk, who seems to be destroying Twitter’s value by the hour.
Jamie Moraga, Franklin River
NO: In general, advertising should make business sense for any corporation. As for Twitter, Elon Musk just acquired the platform, and both corporations and individuals should give the platform a chance during the transition period before making decisions to pull or pause ads or terminate accounts. Musk has a proven track record of spearheading breakthrough technologies; just look at what he did with Tesla and SpaceX. In time, Musk and his team will also make changes to Twitter that could be both positive and groundbreaking.
David Ely, San Diego State University
YES: The risk of a company’s ads appearing next to spam is already high. Twitter’s drastic decline in headcount and new operating policies will impact Twitter’s follower count and the platform’s performance. This impact is unclear, making it difficult to predict the return on Twitter advertising. Temporarily shifting advertising to other digital platforms will be the best course of action for many companies.
Ray Major, SUNDAY
NO: Politics should not be the main driver of advertising decisions. Advertisers should make decisions based on the desired audience they are trying to reach and optimize the return on their marketing dollars, not make political statements. Regardless of who is the CEO of Twitter or any other company, businesses must base their advertising decisions on getting a return on their advertising investment.
Caroline Freund, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy
YES: Businesses should stop advertising until they are sure Twitter is protecting against misinformation and hate speech. Punching Elon in the pocket is the best way to put pressure on Twitter to act responsibly. Pausing also sends a message about one’s own values, and scrolling an ad near unpleasant content is risky. Advertisers can always come back if Twitter improves.
Haney Hong, San Diego County Taxpayer Assoc.
No entry this week.
Kelly Cunningham, San Diego Institute for Economic Research
NO: Not necessarily. There are many reasons and ways for businesses to advertise products. Twitter is offering generous incentives to advertisers as some businesses pull away from the platform. It may be easier to stay above the ad clutter, as Twitter’s visibility has also increased with Elon Musk’s controversial acquisition. Controversy is a means of improving visibility among countless advertising strategies. Truth can handle disagreement, debate and differing opinions, while calls for censorship can try to cover up falsehoods.