Elon Musk’s publicity problem just keeps getting worse.
General Mills and Audi confirmed Thursday that they are suspending ads on Twitter in the wake of Musk’s purchase of the social media company, in the clearest sign yet of growing uncertainty among advertisers about the platform’s future under new ownership.
“We have paused advertising on Twitter,” General Mills spokeswoman Kelsey Roemhildt told CNN in a statement, becoming the first company not competing with Musk’s Tesla to confirm the move. “As always, we will continue to monitor this new direction and evaluate our marketing spend,” the spokesperson said.
In a separate statement, Audi said: “Today, we have suspended paid support for Twitter and will continue to evaluate the situation.”
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the moves, also said that Pfizer and Mondalez are pausing ads on Twitter. The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company joins General Motors, which previously said it would pause paying for Twitter ads while it evaluates the platform’s “new direction.” Toyota, another Tesla competitor, previously told CNN it is “in discussions with key stakeholders and monitoring the situation” on Twitter.
Ad-buying giant Interpublic Group, which works with consumer brands such as Unilever and Coca Cola, also advised clients to pause advertising on the platform earlier this week.
After months of uncertainty about Musk’s purchase, advertisers are now grappling with questions about how Musk will reshape the platform, despite his strong political influence already running in the digital ad space. Musk, known as an innovative entrepreneur and erratic figure, has promised to rethink Twitter’s content moderation policies and undo permanent bans on controversial figures, including former President Donald Trump.
This creates a challenge for brands who are sensitive to the types of content their ads are exposed to, a problem that has been compounded by social media. Most marketers think of running their ads alongside toxic content, like hate speech, pornography, or misinformation.
The outages also come ahead of the US midterm elections, with many civil society leaders concerned that misinformation and other harmful content could spread on the platform and cause disruptions.
Musk has said he’s not a fan of advertising and is currently working to increase Twitter’s subscription revenue to boost its bottom line and become less dependent on ad sales, which account for 90% of Twitter’s revenue. But that change won’t happen overnight, if at all. Musk said he plans to launch an $8-a-month subscription plan that will give users a checkmark, as well as other perks, but the plans have faced strong backlash.
Meanwhile, Musk is working to prevent a possible exodus of advertisers. Musk’s team spent Monday “meeting with the marketing and advertising community” in New York, according to Jason Calacanis, a member of Musk’s inner circle.
Musk also met earlier this week with a group of leaders from civil society organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Free Press and the NAACP, to address concerns about the rise of hate on the platform. Representatives who attended the meeting told CNN that Musk’s willingness to speak and his initial commitment not to change the company’s content policies before the midterm deadline, but urged him to take more steps to protect the platform.
Before news broke last week that his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter was complete, Musk wrote an open letter trying to reassure advertisers that he didn’t want the social network to become a “hellscape for everyone.”
“At its core, Twitter aims to be the world’s most respected advertising platform that strengthens your brand and grows your business,” he wrote. “Let’s build something extraordinary together.”
– CNN’s Peter Valdes-Dapena contributed to this report.