A month before Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced NBCUniversal advertising executive Linda Yacarino as his replacement, he interviewed her onstage in Florida and showed some spine.
At several points during the interview at the “Twitter 2.0: From Conversation to Partnership” conference in April, a less assertive interviewer might have moved on to other topics, but Yacarino pressed Musk.
The audience was filled with marketing executives, many of whom have become accustomed to advertising on Twitter after Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of it last year. Twitter’s main source of revenue has long been advertising, but that fell after Musk — a self-described “free-speech despot” — bought the company. Advertisers had canceled or reduced their campaigns, fearing that their campaigns would appear near the dissemination of racism, conspiracies and other objectionable content.
“I have to give you a little push,” Yacarino told Musk, “because a lot of people in this room vote with their pocketbooks.” Some of them, facing the “challenge” of Musk’s controversial “approach” (he regularly tweets about politics and business) are still “holding back” and not advertising, they said. Said, “What do you call them in this room?”
Musk responded that viewers should take his tweets with a grain of salt, as it is hard to convey tone with a single tweet. “So something that might be sarcastic or a joke or something like that, when it might not be serious.” He blamed the media for casting his tweets in the worst possible light as it competes with Twitter for advertising dollars.
She then asked whether Musk should be held to a higher standard with his tweet, noting, “Many people think you can be too provocative.”
Musk replied, “I think the same standards should apply to me that apply to everyone else on Twitter.” He then attacked traditional journalists and stressed the importance of elevating citizen journalism, saying “it’s so important to hear the voice of the people … let the people determine the narrative, and let the people determine the truth”. , not five editors-in-chief of major publications.
Yacarino replied, “So let me tell you what’s important to the people in this room, and that’s security for their advertising campaigns.” She said that there should be an opportunity for those people to “influence what you’re building”.
Musk replied, “If I were to say, yes, you can influence me, that would be wrong, it would be very wrong, because it would be an undermining of free speech.”
Instead of going on, Yacarino further emphasized the point:
“I want to be specific about impact. It’s an open feedback loop for the advertising experts in this room to help grow Twitter into a place where they’ll be excited to invest more money: Product development, ad protection, content moderation. That’s the effect.
Musk responded, “It’s perfectly fine to say you want your ad to appear in some places in Twitter and not in other places. But it’s not good to say that’s what Twitter will do. And if it means ad dollars.” If we have to lose, we lose it. But freedom of expression is paramount.”
Musk drew applause for that line, at which point another interviewee would have changed subjects. But Yacarino carried on. She noted that old Twitter had a “very well-populated, very well-loved influence council … where they had recurring access, or you will have recurring access.” Under Musk, Twitter stopped convening its Advertising Influence Council, a quarterly meeting between Twitter and about three dozen top advertisers to discuss various business issues.
She described the council as “really a recurring feedback loop from your key stakeholders, your advertisers” and asked whether the platform committed to restoring it.
Kasturi disagreed with the idea of an “influence council”, but agreed that “the response would be appropriate,” adding that if “somebody is spending money for his advertising campaign, he needs to deliver results for his organization”. or it doesn’t make sense.”
As an interviewer that day, knowing the audience helped Yacarino stay on point: Marketing professionals wondering whether they should advertise on Twitter. Still, she delivered a strong performance and showed a willingness to keep pushing the Twitter owner—who now has to answer to her.