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Musk versus Zuckerberg: A fight for advertisers?

Musk versus Zuckerberg: A fight for advertisers?

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Meta's CEO Mark Zuckerberg and X's owner and billionaire Elon Musk have long been at each other's throats as the social media giants fight for a share of the population's attention. However, Musk recently took things a step further, challenging Zuckerberg to a physical "cage match" shortly after the launch of Threads, Meta's app that aimed to rival Twitter (or X as it is now known as).  

The issue started with a tweet with rumors about the launch of Threads in June. In response, Musk said, "I’m sure Earth can’t wait to be exclusively under Zuck’s thumb with no other options. At least it will be 'sane'. Was worried there for a moment."

Don't miss: Elon Musk's X signs new brand safety tech deal to draw advertisers back

Later, in response to a user saying that Musk should be careful as Zuckerberg does Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Musk tweeted: "I’m up for a cage match if he is lol." Zuckerberg, remarkably, agreed to this fight.

Musk continued, over the following weeks, to taunt Zuckerberg. He also told X users that the fight would be livestreamed on X and that proceeds would be donated to charity. Over the month of August, the two went back at forth suggesting dates. Finally, this week, Mark posted on Threads that Musk was not serious and that it was "time to move on". 
 
Zuckerberg continued by saying that despite efforts to lock down a real date and plan, Musk has repeatedly given excuses, refusing to lock down a date, saying he needs surgery and then suggesting they do a practice round in Zuckerberg's backyard instead. "If Musk ever gets serious about a real date and official event, he knows how to reach me," he said. 
 
A day after, Musk responded in a tweet, saying, "Knock, knock…challenge accepted…open the door." He then said in a follow-up tweet that for a Tesla FSD test drive that he was conducting in Palo Alto this week, he would ask the car to drive to Zuckerberg's house. 
 
"Will also test [the] latest X livestream video, so you can monitor our adventure in real-time. If we get lucky and [Zuckerburg] actually answers the door, the fight is on," he said.
 
The taunts come at a particularly vulnerable time for X which recently went through a significant rebranding. A few weeks ago, 

Musk also revealed that the social media platform had seen a 50% drop in advertising revenue along with a heavy debt load resulting in a negative cash flow, according to a tweet by the billionaire. 

"Need to reach [a] positive cash flow before we have the luxury of anything else," Musk added in his tweet.

As the taunts from Musk and Zuckerberg continue, the question is, will the pair actually fight (and livestream it on X) and if they do, could this be an opportunity to drive more eyeballs and thus, advertisers, onto X?
 
According to Kevin Kan, chief experience officer of Break Out Consulting Asia, all publicity is good publicity. "With the live streaming of the event and all the chatter surrounding it, I think it really will draw people back to X," said Kan.
 
"Any live event broadcast, whether on social media platforms or on live TV, will provide advertisers with an opportunity to engage with customers or prospective customers," Kan added. "If the event lives up to its commitment to donate to charity, then this is another opportunity for advertisers to demonstrate their ESG activities in supporting charitable causes."
 
However, Kan cautioned that some conservative advertisers may stay away from event due to the promotion or glorification of violence as a means of competition or settling disputes. He said:

It may have an adverse impact on brands who may be seen to be promoting violence, especially when there are calls to reduce violence in society and against women. 
He added: "As a society, we have evolved into people who have open dialogues to resolve disputes and collaborate for the betterment of society.  Having two men beat each other up in a cage is taking major steps backwards in the evolution of humans."

Some advertisers may also be scared away due to the premium rates that will be assigned to these events, said Kan. He said that it will take a heavy chunk out of the marketing budget and that depending on the type of event, conservative advertisers may shy away from supporting politically incorrect events.

Saying that, Kan noted that any social media platform that provides big event opportunities is good news for advertisers.  "It’s an opportunity for them to proactively engage with a captive audience.  Advertisers can get creative in the way they connect with people watching the live stream.  It also allows the platform to charge premium rates for advertising," he explained. 

A long term opportunity or a flash in the pan?
 
Agreeing with him, Patrick Ong, head of business at We! Interactive added that because this was a high-profile event, it is possible that it could lead to an influx of new users and increased user engagement. However, X will need to provide ongoing value and relevant content beyond the event in order to maintain that engagement and interest, something that X seems to be facing challenges with currently. 
 
According to Ong, there are currently no real changes to the platform with regards to how it will safeguard advertisers and remain relevant. So, what is key then is that X needs to establish what happens after the livestream of the fight. 
 
"For example, are they planning to use this opportunity to showcase X as a good platform for livestreaming? This will open up a lot of opportunity and draw for audiences and advertisers because livestreamed events always draw a lot of hype," he said. 

Ong added that X is currently a text-based social media platform but that they could leverage this opportunity to showcase a new format and to create new offerings while expanding on it. 

"This is how you leverage a singular event and create stickiness on a platform," he said. 

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