Twitter sales plunge and major advertisers pull back

Elon Musk gestures as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX’s Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on February 10, 2022. – Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk delivered an eagerly-awaited update on SpaceX’s Starship, a prototype rocket the company is developing for crewed interplanetary exploration. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

In a nutshell, since Musk took over twitter, its sales have plunged while the followings of TikTok and Pinterest grew. To get specific, Musk’s takeover has led to a 46% year-over-year decrease in ad sales, and the precipitous drop was an anomaly compared to the rest of the social media ad market, according to Standard Media Index, the advertising analytics firm.

Standard Media Index tracks monthly invoices of the major media holding companies and a basket of top independent ad agencies. Considering this, let’s deep this following statistic…
“November is typically a top-three month in terms of ad spend for Twitter,” according to Nicole McCurnin, director of advertising insights at Standard Media Index. “So, the fact it was down nearly 50% is significant obviously.” Damn. 

The statistic shines even brighter (and with an unflattering light) when you consider that according to the same research, ad spending on social media in general, including on Meta, TikTok, Snap and Pinterest, was down 2% year over year. They also saw particular growth in November when Twitter just…didn’t.

For context, U.S. ad revenue for TikTok soared 72% in November versus a year earlier. Pinterest’s November U.S. ad revenue rose 13%.

Furthermore, Twitter generated $1.57 billion in ad sales in the fourth quarter of 2021, including November, according to its public filings. Now that Musk took it private, Twitter no longer has to publicly report its results.

Most concerning is that many major advertisers, including Mondelēz, Macy’s and General Mills, were among the brands that hit pause on Twitter in November. Brands were wary about how Musk would moderate Twitter, and whether the company would continue to work closely with stakeholders to ensure that brand safety standards were met.

Twitter has maintained relationships with some close advertisers, however, including Apple, which continued to advertise after a brief miscommunication with Musk. In late November, Musk publicly called out Apple, claiming the iPhone maker threatened to drop Twitter from the App Store. Musk also said Apple had stopped advertising. Within days, Musk announced that Apple and Twitter had reached an accord. “Thanks, Apple for fully resuming advertising,” Musk said in a public audio session on Twitter Spaces. “We are starting to see a lot of other advertisers also resume their spending.”

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