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Elon Musk’s choice to onboard NBCU ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino has left marketers on the edge of their seats, while Yaccarino inherits a company in absolute turmoil.
“I have an unbelievable level of confidence in Linda’s ability to turn Twitter around and save it from the clutches of the evil overlord who owns it,” Lou Paskalis, chief strategy officer of Ad Fontes Media, told Adweek.
Most marketers think Yaccarino is Twitter’s best shot at reconnecting with advertisers who’ve fled the platform. Five brand leaders Adweek spoke with expect Yaccarino to return Twitter to a more brand-safe and innovative environment.
If Linda can’t turn Twitter around, it’s done.
Rishad Tobaccowala, author and brand strategist
Musk’s tumultuous takeover last October paired with his unpredictable behavior has left many advertisers wary of doing business with the platform. From dissolving the board of directors to laying off more than 6,000 staff, starting a subscription business that has seen limited success and defenestrating content moderation tools, Musk has Yaccarino’s work cut out for her.
“Between now and the end of the year, we’ll understand if Twitter can come back or will go out of business,” said Rishad Tobaccowala, author and former high-ranking executive at Publicis Groupe, told Adweek. “If Linda can’t turn Twitter around, it’s done.”
Fix content moderation and brand safety
To immediately pacify advertisers’ concerns, Yaccarino’s priority should be restoring Twitter’s content moderation tech team that was fired by Musk last November, according to Paskalis.
“The content moderation tech team was responsible for language translation, understanding new threat vectors and for deploying new technology to moderate content successfully,” he said. “I think that will be [Yaccarino’s] first priority because that’s what advertisers are most concerned about.”
Yaccarino could also reinstate Twitter’s “influence council,” a group composed of four dozen marketing executives from Twitter’s former major advertisers—a meeting she could possibly convene in Cannes this year.
Paskalis also expects Yaccarino to create more transparency around the algorithmic orchestration on the platform, purging the unwanted experience of random profiles popping up in feeds.
Reversing the purging of legacy verified blue check marks could be a peace offering for marketers to get back on the platform, said Amy Gilbert of social agency The Social Element.
After buying Twitter for $44 billion, Musk denounced the platform’s blue checks and instead rolled out a paid verification option as part of the company’s subscription product, Twitter Blue. Paying for verification led to fake accounts impersonating brands including Nintendo and Eli Lilly, causing panic inside brands and leading to a further pullback in ad spend.
“There’s a lot more that needs to happen in making sure that that platform feels secure, that they have people that are taking care of spammers,” added Gilbert. The Social Element primarily leveraged Twitter for consumer engagement but slowly moved to Meta’s platforms and TikTok after the blue check mark fiasco.
Compelling ad products
Just fixing content moderation and algorithmic transparency won’t make the cut for many marketers.
For Avi Ben-Zvi, vp of paid social at Tinuiti, Twitter needs to take it up a notch by making the platform more compelling for advertisers either in the performance, consideration or awareness part of the funnel.
“Can they get back to a place where they’re developing interesting ad products while emphasizing safety and ad revenue for advertisers?” he told Adweek.
Video has become front and center for marketers and platforms. Pinterest is testing Premiere Spotlight, which gives advertisers access to a premium placement for 24 hours on the Pinterest app’s search page.
These platforms are “very focused on developing things that advertisers are asking for,” said Ben-Zvi, adding, “That innovation has either stalled or been overshadowed by everything else going on at Twitter.”
Can Musk be controlled?
Ultimately, as Adland waits to see how Yaccarino steers marketers’ trust back to Twitter, the question industry leaders still ask is whether Musk can be controlled.
“Linda can hit the ground running—unless Musk interferes and loses control of his impulses, the way he way he did with his tweet last week when he hired her,” said Paskalis.
“If he causes her to fail in that role,” he continued, “there’s no one that can restore advertising revenue on Twitter.”