Yves here. Perhaps I’ve been reading the wrong quick takes on GM “pausing” its Twitter ads after Elon Musk’s takeover. but the ones from politically-oriented rags were smug and unduly hopeful that GM’s caution about continuing to advertise on Twitter would presage a more general revolt to control Twitter speech, as opposed to being about more narrow but still very serious competitive concerns.
Mind you, Twitter is not Tesla…but if you think data would not be shared in the absence of GM clearing is throat, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
The fact that GM has not yanked ads suggests at least 1. It has advance ad buys it can’t easily get out of and 2. Twitter ads are sufficiently well targeted that GM thinks they are useful. Perhaps Twitter and GM can come to an agreement with some sort of Chinese wall with respect to data sharing with Tesla. But without audit rights, I’m not sure this would be adequate protection.
Automakers spend lavishly on advertising, and they advertise heavily in the social media. But now, one of the social media platforms, Twitter, is owned as of yesterday by the CEO and largest shareholder of Tesla. And the automakers that compete with Tesla, and are getting their clocks cleaned by Tesla, are now finding themselves advertising on Elon Musk’s platform. And when you think about it, that’s kind of a hoot.
No one likes to advertise on a competitor’s platform, for all sorts of reasons, but particularly because on a social-media platform, the competitor gathers the consumer tracking data and can get important insights into current and potential customers and their reactions to the products and ads – without even passing on those insights to the automaker.
Advertising on a competitor’s social media platform is a particular problem because of the vast amount of user data that those platforms collect – data on your customers and potential customers that you may actually not see yourself, unless the platform decides to share it with you.
General Motors is the first automaker out the gate: It announced on the first day after Musk closed the acquisition of Twitter that it “paused” its paid advertising on Twitter.
“We are engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership. As is normal course of business with a significant change in a media platform, we have temporarily paused our paid advertising. Our customer care interactions on Twitter will continue,” GM said in a statement emailed to CNBC.
Stellantis, which owns the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram brands, among a bunch of other brands, tweeted this morning via its Citroën account, pointing specifically at the issue: “Hello to the social media platform owned by one of our competitors.”
This isn’t about advertisers’ concerns, if any, with Musk’s potential content moderation policies. Musk already tried to soothe those fears with his open letter, addressed to advertisers, that was suddenly full of lovey-dovey language, posted on Twitter, of course. “In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all.” And he said, “I very much believe that advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain, and inform you.” And he said, “Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise.”
But for automakers, this is about competition and how much information you want your competitor to have about your customers, potential customers, their reactions to your products, and their interactions with you.
Ford, for example, used Twitter to promote its electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning, a direct competitor to Tesla’s still unavailable Cybertruck. Ford designed a huge “reveal” campaign on Twitter, encompassing a wide variety of strategies and partners on Twitter, that Twitter itself described in its marketing post, “How Ford helped drive the electric vehicle conversation on Twitter with its F-150 Lightning launch.”
Twitter claimed that Ford reached over 1.56 billion “brand impressions” on Twitter, a 39% “EV share of voice on Twitter,” 4.5 million “livestream views,” and whatever – assuming that these weren’t all bots and fake accounts, which would be, well, a hoot, now that Musk owns the shop.
Does Ford really want Tesla to have all this data? I doubt it. But Musk bought the data, and Tesla will have it.
Over the months that Musk’s wildly entertaining takeover of Twitter has played out before us, there surely has been a lot of navel-gazing and head-scratching among automakers as to what to do with their Twitter ads, and their Twitter accounts, and their interactions with folks on Twitter.
GM didn’t just wake up this morning and suddenly realize that Twitter is owned by the guy from Tesla. They prepared for this, and they planned it, and now they’re trying to sort it out with the new owners, if there is anything to sort out. Other automakers and their ad agencies are struggling with it too – because advertising on a competitor’s social media platform is not a good proposition, and there are plenty of other places where automakers can deploy their ad dollars.