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Walmart is the latest advertiser to pull ads from Elon Musk’s X

By Nathaniel Meyersohn, Parija Kavilanz and Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN

New York (CNN) — Walmart confirmed on Friday that it is not advertising on X, the social media platform owned by Elon Musk and formerly known as Twitter.

“We are not actively advertising on X. This is not about a specific change to our advertising policies. We’ve simply decreased spend over time to align with performance,” a Walmart spokesperson told CNN late Friday in an updated statement.

“We’re constantly optimizing our marketing efforts. These decisions are made in a dynamic market and could change in the future.”

A number of prominent brands paused their advertising on X last month following Musk’s public embrace of an antisemitic conspiracy theory favored by White supremacists.

Following the news, Joe Benarroch, head of Operations at X, told CNN in a statement that brands who advertise on the platform are able to get in front of massive amount of users.

“Walmart has a wonderful community on X, and with a half a billion people on X, every year the platform experiences 15 billion impressions about the holidays alone with more than 50 percent of X users doing most or all of their shopping online,” Benarroch said.

Benarroch claimed that Walmart’s decision to pull ads from X is not a direct result of Musk’s action and said Walmart continues to be active on the platform in other ways.

“Walmart has not advertised on X since Oct[ober] so this is not a recent pause, the company has just been organically connecting with its community of more than one million people on X,” he said, pointing out Walmart’s continued posting to the platform including a post the company made on Friday after news broke of its advertising freeze.

Incendiary remarks

Musk apologized Wednesday for what he called his “dumbest” ever social media post. But he lashed out at advertisers leaving his platform.

“I don’t want them to advertise,” Musk said at the New York Times DealBook Summit in New York. “If someone is going to blackmail me with advertising or money go f**k yourself. Go. F**k. Yourself,” he said.

The advertising exodus included media companies like Disney, Paramount, NBCUniversal, Comcast, Lionsgate and Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of CNN.

The ‘nail in the coffin’

Walmart’s decision didn’t come overnight, a person close to the matter said. The move was part of an escalating series of actions from the retailer, the person added, and the company will still keep running ads on other social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Craig Atkinson, chief executive officer of digital marketing agency Code3, told CNN it’s not surprising companies are pulling ads and he sees “no way to unring this bell.”

“Big brands will say they don’t need X and will find their audiences elsewhere and they’re probably right,” he said. “As long as X has an engaged user base, opportunistic emerging brands will keep buying ads, but I don’t see a return of the big brands.”

Meanwhile, Jasmine Enberg, a principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, said this is one more example of how Musk’s volatile leadership has impacted the company.

“If anyone is killing X, it’s Elon Musk – not advertisers,” she said. “Should X collapse, an autopsy would reveal a series of platform policy decisions, staffing cuts, tweets, and antagonistic comments by Musk that have driven away X’s primary source of revenue.”

Enberg noted that before the latest incident, Insider Intelligence projected in October X’s global ad revenues to fall a remarkable 54.4% this year.

“Personally and publicly attacking the advertisers that have kept X alive while the company is in the midst of an ad boycott could be the nail in the coffin for X’s ad business,” Enberg added.

“It’s easier to pull advertising than it is to return, and what makes the X ad boycott unique is that it isn’t primarily about content adjacency or moderation,” she said. “Advertisers are concerned about the reputational damage and the uncertainty of doing business with Musk, and [his] comments will deepen the rift between them.”

Ongoing damage control

Musk visited Israel this week, where he went to a Kibbutz attacked by Hamas on October 7, spoke with families of Israeli hostages and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.

But Musk said on Wednesday that his trip to Israel “wasn’t an apology tour,” and that “it wasn’t in response to all of that.” Musk said that he is a good person but he’s not going to “tap dance” to show people that.

– CNN’s Jennifer Korn contributed to this report

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Article Topic Follows: CNN – Business/Consumer

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