As advertisers have begun to flee Elon Musk’s chaotic Twitter, Musk has secured a major new client: himself. CNBC first reported that Musk’s SpaceX ordered an advertising package from Twitter to promote SpaceX’s Starlink satellite service in Spain and Australia. Musk confirmed the deal on Twitter, but said it was “not large,” and intended to “test effectiveness of Twitter advertising in Australia & Spain.”
The ad campaign, called a “takeover” by current and former Twitter employees CNBC spoke to, typically costs upwards of $250,000 and allows a company to put their brand atop Twitter’s timeline for an entire day. SpaceX’s ad buy costs upwards of $160,000 and users will see Starlink promoted for the first three times they log on to the Twitter app when the takeover campaign is active in those countries.
This is big news for Musk, who has managed to lose millions of dollars worth of advertising revenue from his chaotic takeover of Twitter. After sharing a meandering screenshot on Twitter addressed to advertisers and promising to ensure the website wouldn’t become a “hellscape” because of his changes, he proceeded to do the opposite.
Musk immediately laid off 3,500 employees (half of Twitter’s employees) including those responsible for comms, content moderation, and maintaining the website’s infrastructure. A host of key executives quit shortly thereafter, including heads of advertising, security, and privacy. Then he rolled out a pay-for-verification scheme through Twitter Blue, the company’s subscription service, that led to a wave of accounts impersonating Musk, a host of public figures, and a long list of corporations.
Most notably, on Thursday afternoon someone paid for a verification badge, creating an account that impersonated pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. to tweet out: “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” The tweet sparked an internal panic as the company’s stock price dropped, erasing $15 billion from its market capitalization. The next day, the $330 billion company halted all Twitter ad campaigns.
The pharmaceutical company isn’t the only one to pause ads on Twitter, with firms like General Mills, General Motors, Audi, and Mondelez, freezing ads amid the chaotic transition, partly over concerns that Musk’s takeover saw an immediate spike in hate speech—a problem that could grow now that Musk has laid off thousands more Twitter workers, this time contract employees. To make matters even worse for the company, Twitter has acknowledged internally that core users are in absolute decline and advertisers were already pulling back from opening their wallets because of the rise in cryptocurrency and gambling-related content, alongside concerns of a looming recession.
By all accounts, Musk is managing Twitter as well as he runs all his other companies: horribly.