A month before Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s chief advertising officer, to replace her, she interviewed him onstage in Florida and showed him her spine.
Several times during the interview at the “Twitter 2.0: From Conversations to Partnerships” conference in April, a less determined interviewer could have moved on to other topics, but Yaccarino continued to press Musk.
The audience was filled with marketing executives, many of whom had been wary of advertising on Twitter after Musk’s $44 billion takeover last year. Twitter’s main source of revenue has long been advertising, but that plummeted after Musk – a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” – bought the company. Advertisers, fearing their campaigns would appear near a proliferation of racism, conspiracies and other objectionable content, had canceled or scaled back their campaigns.
“I have to push you a bit,” Yaccarino told Musk, “because there’s a lot of people in this room, they’re voting with their wallets.” Some of them, faced with the ‘challenge’ of Musk’s controversial ‘views’ (he regularly tweets about politics and business) continue to ‘hold back’ and not advertise, she said. declared, adding: “What do you tell them in This piece?”
Musk responded that the public should take his tweets with a grain of salt because it’s hard to convey tone with a tweet. “So something that may be sarcastic or a joke or, something like that, may seem serious when it’s not.” He blamed the media for presenting his tweets in the worst possible light as they compete with Twitter for ad dollars.
She then asked if Musk should be held to a higher level with her tweet, noting that “a lot of people think you might be too provocative.”
Musk replied, “I think the same standard should apply to me and everyone else on Twitter.” He then attacked mainstream journalists and stressed the importance of elevating citizen journalism, saying it’s “very important to hear the voice of the people…let the people determine the narrative and let the people determine the truth, not five editors”. head of major publications.
Yaccarino replied, “So let me remind you what is important to the people in this room, and that is the protection of their advertising campaigns.” She said there needs to be an opportunity for these people to “influence what you build.”
Musk replied, “If I said, yes, you can influence me, that would be wrong, that would be very wrong, because that would be a decrease in freedom of expression.”
Rather than moving on, Yaccarino pushed more on this point:
“I want to be specific about influence. It’s more of an open feedback loop for the advertising experts in this room to help grow Twitter into a place where they’ll be happy to invest more money: product development, ad safety, content moderation. That’s influence.”
Musk replied, “It’s totally cool to say that you want your ad to appear in certain places on Twitter and not in other places. But it’s not cool to try to say what Twitter is going to do. And if that means losing advertising money, we lose it. But freedom of expression is paramount.
Musk drew applause for that line, how another interviewer could have changed the subject. But Yaccarino went ahead. She noted that the old Twitter had a “very well populated and highly regarded influencer board…where they had recurring access, or would have recurring access, to you.” Under Musk, Twitter stopped convening its Ad Influence Council, a quarterly meeting between Twitter and about three dozen top advertisers to discuss various business issues.
She described the board as “really a recurring feedback loop from your key stakeholders, your advertisers” and asked if he would commit on stage to reinstate it.
Musk disagreed with the idea of an “influencer board,” but agreed that “comments would be appropriate,” adding that if “someone spends money on their ad campaign, it has to produce results for his organization or it doesn’t make sense. ”
As an interviewer that day, Yaccarino was helped to stay on point by knowing the audience: marketers wondering if they should advertise on Twitter. Nonetheless, she put in a solid performance and showed a willingness to keep pushing the owner of Twitter, to whom she will now have to answer.