In the aftermath of Elon Musk’s recent controversial statements, major advertisers such as Disney, IBM, and Apple are continuing to withhold their ad dollars from Musk’s platform, X. Two weeks after Musk endorsed an antisemitic tweet and two days after launching a profanity-laden tirade expressing his feelings about the pullback, X is grappling with a significant loss in revenue. Marketing agencies are also distancing themselves from the platform. In response, X has announced plans to attract smaller and medium-sized businesses to bolster its income.
During the New York Times’ DealBook event, Musk asserted, “I will certainly not pander” to big advertisers and issued a warning, holding them accountable for any potential collapse of X. Leaked documents reported by the New York Times indicated that X could face a loss of up to $75 million this quarter, though the company disputes this, estimating the fall in ad revenue to be between $10 million and $12 million. Several marketing agencies have declared their reluctance to return to X.
Steve Boehler, founder of the marketing management consultancy Mercer Island Group, expressed concerns about Musk’s comments, stating that they “suggest an outrageous amount of uncertainty regarding his platform, how he will partner with advertisers, and whether he even cares about what advertisers think.” Boehler emphasized the personal aspect, stating, “Businesses are simply full of people, and people like to be treated well, respected, and dealt with with dignity.”
Despite Musk’s apology for what he called his “dumbest” social media post, X is receiving unexpected support from billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. Ackman, known for his previous threat to blacklist Harvard students, praised Musk’s recent interview as “one of the great interviews ever.” Ackman, a free speech absolutist, argued that Musk and X are treated unfairly and inconsistently by advertisers compared to other platforms with problematic content.
Pershing Square, Ackman’s investment firm with a stake in X, views profit as less important than supporting companies that advocate for free speech. Ackman disputed accusations of antisemitism in Musk’s statements, claiming that Musk did not have antisemitic intent.
In response to the challenges, X acknowledged the significance of small and medium-sized businesses and announced an intensified focus on attracting them. The company stated, “Small and medium businesses are a very significant engine that we have definitely underplayed for a long time – now we will go even further with it.”
Last month, some of the world’s most recognizable brands suspended spending on X after Musk’s controversial endorsement. Musk’s defiant response to the boycotters included telling them to “go [expletive] themselves” and accusing them of attempting to “blackmail” him into greater content moderation.