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Twitter-turned-X CEO Linda Yaccarino focuses on winning back big brands on Elon Musk’s platform

A number of companies had pulled back on ad spending over concerns that Musk’s thinning of content restrictions was enabling hateful and toxic speech to flourish

Twitter CEO Elon Musk, center, speaks with Linda Yaccarino
Twitter CEO Elon Musk, center, speaks with Linda Yaccarino, chairman of global advertising and partnerships for NBC, at the POSSIBLE marketing conference, Tuesday, April 18, 2023, in Miami Beach, Fla.Rebecca Blackwell (AP)

The new CEO of the company formerly known as Twitter says she’s spent much of the past eight weeks trying to get big brands back and advertising on the social media platform that’s been in upheaval since it was bought last year by Elon Musk.

X Corp. CEO Linda Yaccarino said Thursday on CNBC that she has been focused on talking with brands like Coca Cola, Visa and State Farm, along with their chief marketing officers and chief executives.

A number of companies had pulled back on ad spending — the platform’s chief source of revenue — over concerns that Musk’s thinning of content restrictions was enabling hateful and toxic speech to flourish.

“I’ve lived on a lot of planes lately, direct conversations with CMOs and CEOs, and we cover a lot of ground and I focus on those that have either maybe paused or reduced spending to remind them about the power of the platform and the power of the user base and the economic potential of them partnering with us again,” she said in her first media interview since Musk appointed her as CEO.

Yaccarino suggested that part of the difficulty is that some big advertisers might not have known who to talk to because the company has slashed its staff from about 8,000 workers to 1,500 since Musk’s takeover. She also said she’s been working to assure advertisers that brand safety initiatives tailored to them will make sure that their ads will “only air next to” content that’s appropriate to them.

She said the platform is balancing Musk’s free-speech vision with techniques that, while not removing many toxic posts, are supposed to make it hard for them to surface to most users.

“If it is lawful, but it’s awful, it’s extraordinarily difficult to see it,” Yaccarino said.

The former NBCUniversal executive said her role under Musk — who’s also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX — is clearly defined.

“Elon focuses on product design. He leads a team of extraordinary engineers and focuses on new technology,” she said. “So think about it as Elon is working on accelerating the rebrand and working on the future. And I’m responsible for the rest. Running the company from partnerships to legal to sales to finance, all the things.”

She said she has autonomy in doing that and described it as like a relay race.

“Elon works on the technology, dreams up what’s next, passes the baton to me. I bring it to market for economic prosperity, not only for our company, but for all of our customers, like our advertising partners,” she said.

Yaccarino said she’s paying close attention to Meta’s new Twitter competitor, Threads.

After the initial hype that brought a surge of users to Threads, “it’s dropped off dramatically but you can never, ever take your eye off any competition because they’ll continue iterating,” she said.

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