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Twitter's CMO and ad sales chief exit: What's the next move for advertisers?

Twitter's CMO and ad sales chief exit: What's the next move for advertisers?

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Twitter is experiencing a leadership exodus after Elon Musk finalised his US$44 billion acquisition of the company. CMO Leslie Berland has reportedly left, according to multiple media reports including The New York Times and Bloomberg, while chief customer officer Sarah Personette tweeted that she resigned last Friday and her work access was officially cut off on Monday.

Quoting its sources, Bloomberg added that Twitter's VP of global client solutions, Jean-Philippe Maheu has left the company but it was unsure if it was a voluntary resignation on his end or part of Musk's layoff plans. At the same time, Twitter's chief people and diversity officer Daland Brand announced her resignation in LinkedIn while its head of engineering, Nick Caldwell, confirmed his exit from the company by changing his bio to "former Twitter exec". 

In her tweet, Personette said it has been the greatest privilege to serve everyone as a leader and a partner. "Many have heard me say this but the most important role I believe I played in the company was championing the requirements of brand safety," she said, adding that she spent her last few days at the company continuing that commitment. Meanwhile, Berland only tweeted a blue heart emoji.

This slew of leadership departures comes shortly after Musk fired CEO Parag Agrawal and CFO Ned Segal when the deal closed. A few days later, Reuters said Musk plans to cut about 25% of the workforce. The Tesla chief also tweeted that Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with "widely diverse viewpoints", but added that no changes to Twitter's content moderation policies have been made.

Musk's takeover of the platform has also left some advertisers nervous. General Motors, for example, has temporarily paused its advertising on the platform. Meanwhile, CNBC said IPG sent out a recommendation through its media agencies advising clients to temporarily halt ad spend on Twitter for a week due to moderation concerns.

CNBC added that IPG is advising clients to "wait for clarity" on Twitter's plans surrounding trust and safety and monitor if Musk is able to prevent Twitter from becoming "a free-for-all hellscape". Quoting IPG's MAGNA, CNBC also said that Twitter had yet to be in direct, clear communications with each marketing agency. MAGNA also described the current situation to be "unpredictable and chaotic", adding that "bad actors and unsafe behaviours thrive in such an environment". Likewise, Havas Media also advised clients to temporarily pause advertising on the platform, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to media veteran and chief growth officer of Dept, Vishnu Mohan, “wait and watch" will form a bulk of advertisers' view on how to deal with Twitter under the new paradigm. This will be largely coming from fear of content freedom impacting brands being associated with the wrong types of content.

“A decline in revenue added to the general global slowdown impact is likely to be the more immediate visible impact,” said Mohan. However, this may or may not be long-term as brands chase audiences, and if the metrics stand up to the test, ad stability and growth may return –barring any catastrophic self-inflicting outburst.

“The free-spirited outspoken owner is also one of the most innovative and visionary leader. I would envisage a strategy where the brand would pivot to a platform for discussions on the most important topics and garner audiences driven by quality. There is nothing more powerful than media for bringing positive societal impacts at scale - and he knows that best,” said Mohan.

While in the long run, the move might be an overall positive, the short term is uncertain, shared Prashant Kumar, founder of Entropia – an Accenture Song company. “Twitter has been a victim of many of its own traps in the past in terms of vision, design and monetisation. Twitter has been the most important platform with not enough revenues to mirror it,” Kumar added.

What is likely is that its dependency on ad revenues will go down as the company now looks for new sources of revenue such as paid verifications. Moving forward, Musk recently tweeted that users will now have to pay US$8 for Twitter's Blue service which includes the "verified" badge. While Kumar thinks most brands will wait to see what exactly Twitter will become in the upcoming days, most will eventually be back on any platform people are and where opinions are being shaped. “In this regard, our industry is known to have a short memory,” he said.

“Crowd-sourced truth is an organic creature, with a life of its own. Twitter as a business had developed an ‘old print’ like mindset even if it had a mandate for the future and it competed with the likes of TikTok. As a result it’s been neither here nor there. That needed to change,” said Kumar.

Echoing similar sentiments, Joseph Chua, CEO of Aiken Digital , added that while ad revenue is expected to dip in the early days, he believes that Musk's takeover of Twitter will redefine Twitter as a tool of communication. With the fundamentals of the platform rejigged, Chua says the platform should look to move towards a super app-like structure similar to WeChat where communications and commerce is all-encompassing.

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