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Advertisers Say They Do Not Plan to Return to X After Musk’s Comments

Advertisers Say They Do Not Plan to Return to X After Musk’s Comments

Elon Musk, the owner of X, criticized advertisers with expletives on Wednesday at The New York Times’s DealBook Summit.

Advertisers said on Thursday that they did not plan to reopen their wallets anytime soon with X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, after its owner, Elon Musk, insulted brands using an expletive and told them not to spend on the platform.

At least half a dozen marketing agencies said the brands they represent were standing firm against advertising on X, while others said they had advised advertisers to stop posting anything on the platform. Some temporary spending pauses that advertisers have enacted in recent weeks against X are likely to turn into permanent freezes, they added, with Mr. Musk’s comments giving them no incentive to return.

Advertisers are “not coming back” to X, said Lou Paskalis, the founder and chief executive of AJL Advisory, a marketing consultancy. “There is no advertising value that would offset the reputational risk of going back on the platform.”

Mr. Musk has repeatedly criticized and alienated advertisers since buying Twitter last year. At one point, he threatened a “thermonuclear name & shame” against advertisers who paused their spending because they were concerned about his plans to loosen content moderation rules on X.

In recent weeks, more than 200 advertisers had halted their spending on X after Mr. Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory and researchers called attention to instances of ads appearing alongside pro-Nazi posts on the platform. The company, which has made most of its revenue from advertising, is at risk of losing up to $75 million this quarter as brands back away.

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The chief technology officer of X used foul language to slam brands that had pulled their advertising after his post on the social media platform.

The situation was compounded on Wednesday when Mr. Musk made incendiary comments against advertisers at the DealBook Summit in New York. In a wide-ranging interview at the event, Mr. Musk apologized for the antisemitic post, calling it “one of the most foolish” he had ever published, but also said that advertisers were trying to “blackmail” him. He singled out Bob A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, who also attended the DealBook Summit.

“Don’t advertise,” Mr. Musk then said, using an expletive multiple times to emphasize his point.

Hours later, Linda Yaccarino, X’s chief executive, tried to mitigate the damage. In a post on X, she shifted attention to Mr. Musk’s apology for associating himself with antisemitism and appealed to advertisers to return.

“X is enabling an information independence that is uncomfortable for some people,” Ms. Yaccarino wrote. “X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street — and the X community is powerful and here to welcome you.”

A representative for X did not respond to a request for comment.

Ruben Schreurs, the chief strategy officer at Ebiquity, a marketing and media consulting firm, said Ms. Yaccarino appeared to be trying to get brands to stand with X’s views on free speech. But advertisers were unlikely to step in to sponsor the social media platform’s goals, he said.

“It doesn’t resonate at all,” he said, adding that the spending pauses seemed to be “turning into a termination of advertising on X.” Short of a leadership change or a change in control at the company, he added, advertisers were unlikely to consider returning to the platform.

Other marketers are recommending that brands abandon X altogether. Tom Hespos, a longtime media planning executive who runs a consulting firm, Abydos Media, and works with clients in health care and other industries with up to $50 million media budgets, said that he gave his first formal recommendation to a client on Thursday that they not only stop spending on X but back away from posting there.

“You can’t with a good conscience make a recommendation to a client that they continue to be a part of” what Mr. Musk has done on X, Mr. Hespos said.

Mr. Musk’s rejection of advertisers highlights the challenges facing Ms. Yaccarino, an advertising industry veteran, as she tries to stabilize X’s revenue. The last three months of the year have historically been lucrative for X, as major advertisers typically launch campaigns for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday shopping.

Among the brands that have been big spenders on X and that have recently halted their campaigns are Apple, Disney and IBM. Other brands have remained, including the National Football League and The New York Times’s sports site, The Athletic.

At the DealBook event on Wednesday, Mr. Musk acknowledged that an extended advertiser boycott could bankrupt X. But the public would blame the failure on brands, he said, not on him.

“I will certainly not pander,” he said.

Mr. Musk’s dismissiveness of advertiser concerns has caused brands to view him as a risky partner, said Steve Boehler, the founder of the marketing management consultancy Mercer Island Group.

Mr. Musk’s “comments suggest an outrageous amount of uncertainty regarding his platform, how he will partner with advertisers and whether he even cares about what advertisers think,” said Mr. Boehler, who works with clients who spend $10 million to $500 million on advertising annually. “This is also personal,” he added. “Businesses are simply full of people, and people like to be treated well, respected and dealt with with dignity.”

Ryan Mac contributed reporting.

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