On Wednesday, Elon Musk will meet with some of Twitter’s largest advertisers and marketing partners in an attempt to reassure executives following a flurry of activity on the social media site.
The move comes just days after Musk, who bought the company for $44 billion last month, threatened advertisers who leave his platform with a “thermonuclear name & shame” campaign.
Musk will speak to a select group of advertisers via “Twitter Spaces,” the platform’s live audio conversation feature. According to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity, WPP, one of the world’s largest ad agencies, is among those taking part.
The topics of the discussion are unknown, but Musk recently stated that Twitter was experiencing a “massive drop in revenue” as advertisers paused campaigns on the platform. Since Musk completed his acquisition, there has been an increase in reports of hate speech and abuse on Twitter.
Musk has been scrambling to shore up the company’s revenue streams, cut costs by laying off employees, and find new ways to make money as he faces the reality of having to pay around $1 billion in interest on the debt he incurred when purchasing Twitter. The vast majority of Twitter’s revenue is generated by advertising. A potential recession and rising inflation have already severely reduced ad budgets, making this an especially difficult time for the entire digital ad industry.
At the same time, advertisers are acutely aware of the type of content in which their advertisements may appear. Musk has repeatedly stated that he wants to maintain content moderation standards, but by laying off half of the company’s employees, activist groups and advertisers are skeptical that the company will be able to keep hate speech, violent and sexual content out of people’s feeds.
Derrick Johnson, NAACP President, has urged businesses to stop advertising on Twitter “until steps are taken to make Twitter a safe space.” Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” accused boycott participants of “trying to destroy free speech in America.”
Ford, General Motors, and Volkswagen have all pulled their Twitter advertisements, as have cereal and snack companies General Mills and Mondelez, the parent company of Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers, and Sour Patch Kids candy. Interpublic Group, which represents American Express, Coca-Cola, Fitbit, Spotify, and dozens of other major corporations, has also advised its clients to pause Twitter ad purchases for the time being.
“A thermonuclear name and shame is exactly what will happen if this continues,” Musk tweeted Friday as more companies began to pull their advertising from the platform, threatening to unleash his raucous online fans on businesses and executives who abandon the platform.
Musk has laid off roughly half of Twitter’s workforce in his brief tenure, decimating content moderation and engineering teams just days before Tuesday’s midterm elections. As the company’s remaining employees struggled to meet complex infrastructure challenges, the company moved to rehire some of those displaced employees.
Musk intends to sell Twitter’s blue verification badge for $8 per month, but without actually verifying users’ identities, which may cost the company more than it brings in. It also threatens to wreak havoc on a platform already plagued by the spread of disinformation, bots, and scammers.
Musk has taunted politicians on the platform, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), shared a meme featuring a Nazi soldier, spread misinformation about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) husband, and imposed draconian restrictions on parody accounts since taking over.
Musk’s actions, along with others, have alarmed advertisers.
“Advertisers are not being manipulated by activist groups; rather, they are being compelled by established principles regarding the types of businesses with which they can do business.” These principles include an evaluation of the platform’s commitment to brand safety and suitability,” Lou Paskalis, president of MMA Global, a major marketing firm, tweeted at Musk.
After the exchange, Musk blocked and then unblocked Paskalis.