Musk takeover leads Mediabrands to recommend pause on Twitter ads

    • An agency within Interpublic Group is advising clients to put a temporary hold on running ads on Twitter, according to Marketing Brew reporter Ryan Barwick. Other outlets, including Politico and Ad Age, reported on the development. 
    • Mediabrands, the ad-holding group’s media agency, sent out a letter Monday recommending a pause on activity for the next week as the platform undergoes a transition to ownership under Elon Musk, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Politico.  
    • Musk has made efforts to assure advertisers that he will uphold Twitter’s brand safety commitments, but the executive’s own tweets and an apparent surge in hate speech on the app following the deal’s close Thursday are sounding alarm bells. That’s a big problem for a company that derives the lion’s share of its revenue from advertising and is in pressing need of a turnaround.   

    Musk recently tweeted an open letter to Twitter advertisers emphasizing that the app could not become “a free-for-all hellscape” where actions carry no consequences. Mediabrands reportedly encouraging its clients to suspend their activity underpins the uphill battle the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur has in proving that’s a sentiment he really believes in versus a ploy to prevent a brand exodus during his early run as CEO.

    Mediabrands appears to be offering advice to its clients versus a hard mandate. The recommended freeze is also just for one week, per Politico, which could allow for some of the dust to settle following the initial ownership transition. 

    Some brands independently are taking a cautionary approach to Twitter with Musk, an avowed “free-speech absolutist,” at the helm. General Motors late last week confirmed it’s enacting a temporary paid media pause on the site. Others could follow suit amid rising fears over brand safety and security, further endangering Twitter’s already battered ads business. The app generates about 90% of its revenue from ads but has struggled with iOS privacy changes and a cooling market.

    Mediabrands works with blue-chip names like Coca-Cola, American Express and Johnson & Johnson that command billions in media spending power. The agency did not immediately respond to Marketing Dive’s request for comment. 

    On the one hand, brands have to contend with Musk’s personal behavior, which has been at odds with his commitments to fostering a warm and welcoming environment. Following an attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Friday, the executive shared an article from a site known to spread misinformation that promoted an anti-LGBT conspiracy related to Paul Pelosi. Musk deleted the tweet only to later mock The New York Times’ reporting on the incident

    Bad actors have also seemed to celebrate the Musk takeover, viewing it as an opportunity to skirt the app’s policies. Coordinated trolling campaigns have resulted in a spike in the usage of racial slurs on Twitter since the deal closed, according to third-party analyses. 

    Additionally, Twitter has experienced a leadership shakeup that weakens its relationship with the advertiser community, all at a time when communication is paramount. Marketing chief Leslie Berland departed Tuesday, according to Bloomberg, while vice president of global sales, Jean-Philippe Maheu, also recently exited. 


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