In recent weeks, the controversy surrounding Elon Musk and “X” has been making waves in the business world. Several prominent advertisers, in what appears to be a misguided protest against perceived antisemitism, have chosen to sever their ties with the platform. Warner Brothers, Discovery, Comcast, Disney, and Lionsgate have all withdrawn their advertising support, sparking a fiery response from Musk during his appearance at The New York Times DealBook Summit last week.
Now, the largest retailer in the United States has also decided to halt its advertising on X, aligning itself with other corporations that have taken a similar stand. A spokesperson from Walmart explained that the company is redirecting its advertising efforts to alternative platforms they believe will better serve their customer base. Walmart’s statement read: “We have opted not to advertise on X as we have identified other platforms that are more in tune with reaching our valued customers.”
While Walmart argues that their decision is financially justified, some statistics seem to suggest otherwise. Breitbart reported that X boasts over a million users, the majority of whom are avid online shoppers. The question arises: Is it wise to abandon advertising on a platform with such a substantial following, unless there is more to this story than meets the eye?
Since acquiring the platform, certain advertisers have faced mounting pressure from the left. Musk has been vocal about his concerns regarding censorship and the Biden Administration, prompting backlash from liberal quarters who preferred a more one-sided narrative. While losing advertising revenue is never a desirable outcome, Musk has stood his ground with his comments made last week.
The core of the controversy stemmed from a post by Musk on X, in response to another user. The Tesla CEO admitted that he should not have responded, acknowledging, “I essentially handed a loaded gun to those who dislike me. What I was trying to convey is that it’s unwise to support groups that seek your annihilation. If anything, I am a strong advocate for the Jewish community.” Despite his clarifications, advertisers have seized the opportunity to distance themselves from the platform, accusing Musk of harboring anti-Semitic sentiments.
During the New York Times event, Musk reiterated his stance on the issue, attributing the advertising exodus to accusations of antisemitism. When questioned about the situation, he responded bluntly to former advertisers, saying, “Go f*ck yourself… Go. F*ck. Yourself. Is that clear?” While this response may not have been the most tactful, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows Musk’s penchant for candid expression.
Musk does not shy away from voicing his opinions and beliefs, and despite the backlash, an apology seems unlikely. Musk views himself as a staunch advocate for free speech and acquired the platform with the intention of removing restrictions on conservative voices. While X has now become a more welcoming space for individuals on the right, the financial losses incurred from the advertising exodus could potentially hinder the platform’s future growth.
A notable marketing firm has suggested that advertisers might be wary of the potential reputational risks associated with returning to X: “The perceived risks to one’s reputation may outweigh any potential advertising benefits on this platform.” According to Breitbart, the revenue loss could amount to as much as $75 million, but for now, Musk appears undeterred. It remains to be seen whether the billionaire CEO will backtrack on any of his statements, but given his track record since taking ownership of X, it seems unlikely. In these turbulent times, the issue of free speech and its boundaries continues to dominate discussions. While some advertisers have chosen to distance themselves from X, it remains to be seen whether this stance will have a lasting impact on the platform’s trajectory.