General Mills latest to halt Twitter ads as Musk takeover sparks brand exodus

Cheerios and Lucky Charms cereal company joins General Motors Co and Audi among others in pulling money from the platform

General Mills is the latest to join a growing group of companies halting advertising on Twitter after the social media platform was acquired by billionaire Elon Musk for $44bn.

The company, known for its Cheerios and Lucky Charms cereals, confirmed on Thursday it would pause advertising on the platform. “We will continue to monitor this new direction and evaluate our marketing spend,” said spokesperson Kelsey Roemhildt.

Last week, top US automaker General Motors Co temporarily paused paid advertising on Twitter amid chaos at the company. Volkswagen AG’s Audi also confirmed Thursday it would pause ads and “continue to evaluate the situation”, said spokesperson Whaewon Choi-Wiles.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Pfizer had also suspended advertising spending at Twitter. The pharmaceutical company did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The growing exodus of advertisers comes amid concerns Musk will scale back misinformation and security protections on the platform. As civil rights groups call potential moderation issues into question, companies are considering whether staying on Twitter might tarnish their brands.

Shortly before taking over the San Francisco company last week, Musk issued a vow to advertisers that he would not allow Twitter to become a “free-for-all hellscape,” an indication there would still be consequences for violators of its rules against harassment, violence or election and Covid-related misinformation.

But since then some users have posted racial slurs and recirculated long-debunked conspiracy theories in an apparent attempt to see if the site’s policies were still being enforced. The NAACP said this week it has expressed to Musk its concerns about “the dangerous, life-threatening hate and conspiracies that have proliferated on Twitter” under his watch. Other civil liberties groups like Glaad and Color of Change are calling on all major advertisers to pause their ad buys, arguing the sweeping layoffs at the company could jeopardize content moderation standards.

Other big Twitter advertisers like Warner Discovery, Coca-Cola and Nestle did not respond to requests for comment about their advertising plans.

Some could evaluate their plans after Twitter’s new “content moderation council” meets. Musk has said he will not reinstate any accounts or make major content decisions before it is convened. No date has been announced for that meeting.

On Friday, Musk said that Twitter has seen a “drop in revenue” because activists are pushing advertisers to leave the platform “even though nothing has changed with content moderation”.

Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.

Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2022

About 90% of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertisers but it’s far from the biggest platform that advertisers turn to for digital marketing. Google, Amazon and Meta account for about 75% of digital ads, with all other platforms combined making up the other 25%.

Twitter will account for 0.9% of worldwide digital ad spending in 2022, according to projections by Insider Intelligence. Meta will account for 21.4% in 2022.

Twitter has lost most of its top executives in the past week, including the one in charge of advertising sales.

The social media company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sarah Personette, the site’s chief customer officer, tweeted earlier this week that she resigned on Friday from Twitter and her work access was officially cut off Monday night. Days earlier, she said she had a “great discussion” with Musk and expressed optimism about the company’s future. In announcing her resignation Tuesday, she said she still believes Twitter’s new administration understands the importance of upholding the “brand safety” standards she sought to champion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


Kari Paul

The GuardianTramp

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