After Promising Advertisers That They Are Brand Safe, Twitter/X Proves They Are Not Brand Safe

X/Twitter managed to coax some advertisers back to their platform. Advertisers then once again found their ads next to neo-nazi extremism.

There’s an old saying that goes along the lines of this: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That saying may be something going through a few people’s minds after what recently happened.

To quickly recap things, after Elon Musk bought Twitter a year ago, he made moves seemingly designed to burn the whole thing to the ground. Neo nazi’s were being unbanned while anyone who dared to hurt Musk’s fragile feelings were being banned left and right. It sent a strong message that Twitter was quickly being transformed into a haven for far right extremism, racism, bigotry and other forms of the worst of what humanity has to offer.

The transformation under Musk was a boon for alternatives like Mastodon which went from a relatively small niche unknown platform to a household name. Bluesky is another alternative that people have grown excited over, though unfortunately, it persistently remains in invite only beta mode to this day.

As users left in droves for alternatives that weren’t solely focused on right wing rage farming, advertisers also questioned whether or not they should continue advertising on a platform. Are they really just fuelling racism and bigotry? For a number of top advertisers, the risk was too much as they concluded that Twitter/X is no longer brand safe. They ultimately pulled the plug on their advertising operations, costing the platform huge amounts of money in the process. Musk, for his part, didn’t help matters when he channelled his inner Side Show Bob and threatened the advertisers who were leaving in the process. Either way, the damage was done, making it significantly harder for the platform to recover from the massive blows it was taking.

With Twitters revenues in free fall, Elon Musk brought on board Linda Yaccarino to try and right these issues. The promotion has caused some to describe the promotion as a glass cliff moment where a woman was basically being set up to fail. Yaccarino tried, among other things, to coax some of those brands back, trying to convince them that they are totally still brand safe. While she did manage to convince some of those advertisers to come back, those advertisers apparently ended up spending a fraction of what they used to. From Techdirt:

The other thing that Yaccarino said to try to convince everyone that the clown car wasn’t veering completely off the track was that “90% of the top 100 advertisers have returned to the platform.” As we noted at the time, the wording of this is kinda strange, and seems purposely designed to mislead people into thinking the the company’s advertising was coming back to old levels.

Except… that’s clearly not true. Media Matters has been using ad tracking tools to see how much advertisers are spending on exTwitter, and even the ones that are coming back are basically spending nothing. Some embarrassingly so. So, when Yaccarino crows that “Visa” has come back to advertising on the platform, she leaves out that they spent $10 according to the analysis.


Of course, this leaves an interesting question. When some of these advertisers did come back with such small advertising budgets, were they simply testing the waters to see if X/Twitter had reformed itself or not? If that’s the case, then those advertisers have recently begun getting their answer. From Techdirt:

And, yes, since Yaccarino (who was brought in because of her supposedly good relationship with advertisers) keeps telling brands that they’re safe on the platform, and that even if bad shit is there their ads will be kept away from it.

But the problem is not the advertising tools. It’s the guy who owns the site. And Yaccarino should know this, because the way she ended up in this job was that she interviewed Musk on stage back in April in a pitch to advertisers, and it was revealed that in email discussions beforehand over what she should ask him about, advertisers made it abundantly clear to her that the problem was Elon Musk himself.

This week, he’s demonstrated that again by wholeheartedly embracing an antisemitic claim that Jews are somehow “anti-white” and are “pushing” a “hatred against whites” (a version of the nonsense “replacement theory” concept that is popular among white supremacists).

And now Media Matters has found that some of those “top advertisers” that Yaccarino promised wouldn’t have their ads show up next to neo-nazis… are… (you know where this is going…) having their ads show up next to neo-nazis.

The article contains numerous screen shots where top advertisers had their ads appearing next to neo-nazi propaganda. The appearances apparently didn’t go unnoticed by some of the advertisers at least:

In response to this report, IBM (who was one of the largest remaining advertisers) has said it is immediately pulling its ads from the platform.

And, yes, it’s impossible to promise that no bad content will appear next to ads. That’s a promise no one can make (and Yaccarino never should have made). But when you have a company that has an owner/boss who not only actively invited back onto the platform multiple known neo-nazis, and repeatedly seems to endorse their messages (some coded, some not even remotely coded), is it any wonder that the site is flooded with neo-nazi content, making it that much more likely that your ads will show up next to such content?

As for how management has responded? Elon called Media Matters an “evil organization” for… pointing out literal factual information.

Let’s face it: we’ve had a year of evidence of what Musk has turned Twitter in to. Advertisers already knew from the early days where all of this was headed. Some advertisers gave the benefit of a doubt and experimented with the platform again. Those advertisers got burned as clearly demonstrated above. If you advertise on the platform, your content is probably going to get placed next to racist propaganda. If those advertisers continue to play along, they do so knowing full well what is going to happen.

At this point, if advertisers are later upset that their content is fuelling the worst content humanity has to offer, they only have themselves to blame for that. Twitter clearly can’t be trusted with advertising dollars like this. There’s just too much evidence of this at this late stage in the game.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: