Elon Musk, the man with a wealth equivalent to the GDP of New Zealand and one of the most prominent free speech advocates is now (in his own words) “looking forward to unlocking Twitter’s potential.”
When it comes to adland, it’s a bit of an “oh shit” moment. Marketing execs will undoubtably all be asking the same questions: will Musk need ad revenue to thrive, or even survive? Should we take a step back from using Twitter as a marketing tool for fear it will lose credibility as a channel?
To predict what the future holds for a platform run by a powerful controversial character, we only need to look at other walks of public life – politics, TV and big business – to see how these events can play out. Talk TV is already facing a boycott from advertisers who aren’t exactly open to an association with its main free-speech, key-board warrior host, Piers Morgan.
Twitter has now been forced to sell itself and its soul to a man who has faced many a scandal or controversy: within hours of the deal being announced, he had been accused of misogyny for singling out two top female executives for criticism.
Twitter had been making positive progress in terms of addressing misuse and cases of bullying and harassment, which shone a bright light on the platform as a strong marketing tool. Now these policies are in serious doubt given Musk’s approach to the crusades of increasing freedom of speech and breaking down moderation barriers.
It seems ironic that the man who built his brand on Twitter, although questions still linger over some of his outlandish tweets, is potentially risking so many other brands from building theirs on the platform too. And in some cases, pushing them towards competitors, such as Tik Tok and Instagram.
With Musk due to officially take over by the end of the year, it’s now a wait-and-see situation. And Adland will no doubt be watching closely with hands over its eyes. And heart in its mouth.
Michael Richards is managing director at alan. agency, whose clients include Thompson Reuters and KPMG. He was a graduate trainee at Ogilvy and has previously held global roles at Grey and VCCP.