As Twitter’s advertising revenue plummets, owner Elon Musk has repeatedly claimed that advertisers are returning to the platform — a claim that mainstream media outlets have uncritically amplified even though data indicates that most of the advertisers publicly cited as returning to Twitter have either never left or still aren’t advertising on the platform.
Musk has repeatedly claimed that advertisers are returning to the platform, despite evidence to the contrary. Mainstream media outlets have amplified Musk’s claims. In a June 18 article, Business Insider parroted Musk’s claim and implied that major companies such as “Disney, ESPN, the NBA, Adobe, and Microsoft” have returned to advertising again on Twitter under new CEO Linda Yaccarino, who is a former NBCUniversal advertising executive.
For months following Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter last year — and his massive cuts to the site's content moderation teams — brands including GM, Audi, and General Mills pulled ads from Twitter, citing concerns over brand safety under the new billionaire owner.
Hate speech skyrocketed on the platform, and Musk said that the brands abandoning their advertisement campaigns in droves prompted "a massive drop in revenue" for the site.
However, those same brands are returning to market their products and services on Twitter with Yaccarino at the helm. This week The Wall Street Journal reported Musk said, “almost all of the advertisers have said that they've either come back or they said they will come back.”
According to a Media Matters analysis of advertising data from Sensor Tower, the companies implied to have returned to advertising on Twitter either never stopped advertising on the platform (Disney, Adobe Systems, ESPN, NBA, and Microsoft) or still aren’t advertising on Twitter (General Motors, Audi, and General Mills).
Advertisers have fled Twitter since Musk took over the company, with Musk confirming Twitter’s revenue has been cut in half since he took ownership — a result of Musk’s chaotic leadership and his troubling behavior on the platform.
Musk has desperately attempted to woo back blue chip advertisers and boost revenue with the help of Yaccarino even before she became Twitter’s CEO, a hiring choice seemingly intended to give the platform more legitimacy with advertisers. (Musk’s behavior on the platform has not changed and lawyers for the company told a San Francisco court that hiring Yaccarino “will not result in a different content-moderation strategy.”)
While a major advertising agency has removed Twitter’s “high risk” classification, and reporting indicates that at least three companies (Mondelez International, McDonald’s, and Nike) returned to advertising after brief initial pauses or spending reductions, the platform’s ad revenue continues to drop. Last month, the company earned almost $75 million in ad revenue — $9 million less than the $84 million the company earned in April and $34 million less than the $109 million it made in May of last year.
Additionally, the data indicates that advertising on the platform has not changed much in June. So far this month, the company has earned only $41 million in ad revenue, and 4 of the top 5 advertisers that have spent the most on Twitter ads this month were also among the top 5 advertisers in May — Mondelez International, HBO, The Wall Street Journal, and FinanceBuzz.io.
As there is no evidence that advertisers are returning to Twitter, those that have continued to run ads on the platform risk their ads appearing next to harmful content — including “neo-Nazi propaganda,” as Business Insider reported, and content from previously banned right-wing extremists, COVID-19 misinformers, anti-vaccine figures, and election deniers.
Clarification (6/21/23): This piece has been updated for clarity.