Ad Giant Interpublic Group Advises Clients to ‘Pause’ Twitter Ad Spending for a Week

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Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has already prompted a slowdown of ad dollars to the much-scrutinized social-media venue.

Interpublic Group, the advertising giant, has advised clients that work with its large Mediabrands ad-buying group to “pause” spending on Twitter for the next week, according to a person familiar with the matter. Executives at the media-investment firm want to get more clarity, this person says, on Twitter’s trust and safety policies, as well as its “organizational capability” under Musk, the new owner. Musk last week closed a $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter.

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Interpublic Group declined to make executives available for comment. Twitter did not respond to a query seeking comment. Morning Brew previously reported Interpublic’s advice to clients.

Interpublic’s Mediabrands represents top advertisers including American Express and Johnson & Johnson. among dozens of others. The company helps guide some $40 billion in media spending across the globe.

The interim policy is a clear signal of Madison Avenue’s growing discomfort with aligning commercials with Twitter as its operations shift to the tech entrepreneur. Musk has in recent days tweeted misinformation regarding the recent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and reports have indicated Twitter would like to generate revenue from the verification of its users. On Tuesday, Musk tweeted that users who paid $8 per month would benefit from “Priority in replies, mentions & search, which is essential to defeat spam/scam – Ability to post long video & audio – Half as many ads.”

Advertisers are more concerned than ever about placing their commercials in environments where their pitches won’t appear next to offensive language, hate speech or shocking video. Some of Musk’s recent pronouncements about allowing banned Twitter users to return have raised eyebrows among ad executives. General Motors — an Interpublic client — indicated late last week that it would pause paid advertising on Twitter to see how the venue evolved. According to The Wall Street Journal, about a dozen advertisers represented by WPP’s GroupM have set up a plan to pause all their ads on Twitter if Musk reinstates former President Donald Trump’s account.

Advertisers that work with other media buyers have directed pauses in ad spend on Twitter, according to a person familiar with the matter. Marketers are seeking new assurances from Musk, this person says, and want to know who to hold accountable at the company now that several of its top executives have left. There is hope that agencies and advertisers will get more clarity later this week, this person says, when they are slated to hear directly from Musk about his plans and the guarantees he can make about Twitter’s landscape and tolerance for hateful remarks. Automakers and media companies are developing a new wariness around Twitter, this person says, because of Musk’s ownership of Tesla or recent reports about a potential decision to scrap the availability of ad-free articles to subscribers of Twitter’s Blue service.

Advocacy organizations are placing pressure on advertisers. On Tuesday, 40 groups banded together to send a letter to some of Twitter’s top advertisers urging them to demand “the maintenance of basic brand safety standards and community guidelines.” Among the marketers who received the missive were Amazon, Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Capital One Financial Corporation, CBS, CenturyLink, Coca-Cola Company, Comcast Corporation, Best Buy Co., Disney, Google, Home Box Office, IBM, Merck & Co., Meta Platforms, Mondelez International, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Verizon. Among the organizers are Free Press, Accountable Tech and Media Matters for America.

Other social-media outlets have grappled with similar circumstances. Alphabet’s YouTube, for example, for several years had to deal with advertiser defections after the streaming venue proved unable to guarantee that ads would not appear alongside videos espousing hateful statements.

Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe, two other big ad companies that operate prominent media-buying agencies, declined to make executives available for comment on whether they were advising clients to change current spending plans in regard to Twitter. Executive at other media agencies suggested they were monitoring the efficacy of ads placed on Twitter and keeping clients apprised of strategies they could use if they decided to pause spend or continue as usual for the foreseeable future.

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