Twitter woos advertisers in uncertain future under Musk

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May 4 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) faced a skeptical public as it pitched its advertising opportunities on Wednesday at an event in New York, three ad agency executives told Reuters, while the social media company’s plans under billionaire Elon Musk remain unclear.

The chief executive of Tesla (TSLA.O), which is buying Twitter for $44 billion, tweeted that the platform shouldn’t have ads so it can have more control over its content moderation policies.

Twitter has told its employees in internal staff meetings and in public filings that its advertising and other operations will continue as normal until the deal closes, but the company couldn’t speculate on what changes. Musk could bring.

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“He’s like the ghost of the future of Christmas hanging over it all,” said Mark DiMassimo, founder of ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein, referring to Twitter’s pitch to advertisers on Wednesday. “Whatever (Twitter) says, all everyone really wants to know is how it’s going to be in the future.”

The social media company made $5 billion in revenue in 2021, the majority from the sale of digital advertising on its website and app.

Most advertisers haven’t taken advertising dollars away from Twitter, but are watching closely to see how Musk might change the platform and its business, ad executives said.

“I would love to (Twitter) reach out and talk to him, because there’s a lot of curiosity,” said Alex Stone, senior vice president of advanced video and agency partnerships at Horizon Media.

Ad agencies and brands mingled in a cavernous New York event space before the start of Twitter’s presentation. An ad buyer said attendees wondered if Twitter would joke about the private deal with Musk or address the issue more directly.

The buyer didn’t have to wait long for a response.

“It’s been a quiet month here on Twitter,” joked JP Maheu, vice president of global customer solutions at Twitter at the start of the presentation.

The company has announced a number of presentation-related content partnerships.

Twitter said it is expanding its partnerships with media companies Conde Nast and Essence, which will create video and audio programming on Twitter. E! News will launch a new Twitter livestream to discuss TV shows such as “The Real Housewives” and “Stranger Things.”

Advertisers will be able to purchase ad spots that air alongside videos from media companies. The social media platform said it would be the first social partner to test an integration with iSpot, the company NBCUniversal uses to measure video views.

Twitter also announced that Fox Sports will host live pre-match broadcasts on the platform for every match at the FIFA Men’s World Cup this year in Qatar and the Women’s World Cup in 2023.

Sarah Personette, Twitter’s Chief Customer Officer, closed the presentation by expressing her gratitude to the company’s advertisers.

“Your partnership makes us better every day. We are extremely grateful for the way you stand by our side,” she said.

At least one marketer left the presentation wanting more.

Jasmine Wang, director of media at Altice USA, said her company pulled advertising spending from Twitter due to concerns about Musk’s potential impact on the platform.

Wang said she expected Twitter’s presentation to be longer and more substantial and hoped it would address possible changes that may come from Musk.

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Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Chris Reese and Tom Hogue

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