X’s Backlash in New Brand Positioning: Free Speech

Twitter - NOW X
Twitter – NOW X

In October 2022, Elon Musk finalized the acquisition of Twitter, now known as X. Post-acquisition, a wave of advertisers initially abandoned ship, concerned about potential brand impact from X’s forthcoming “Freedom of Speech” rules.

Their apprehension stemmed from the fear of ads appearing alongside content advertisers preferred not to be associated with. The perception that X would allow more “improper” content heightened the risk of negative ad experiences.

After a brief hiatus, advertisers returned, albeit with reduced ad spends. Despite the dip in ad revenue, X’s recent guidance indicates the platform is approaching cash-flow neutrality, excluding debt obligations. In essence, the company is on the brink of self-sufficiency, requiring no external cash infusion to sustain itself.

Fast forward, and a second exodus occurred after controversial remarks by Elon and an attempt by Media Matters to incite an advertiser boycott. Yet again, after a few weeks, advertisers are making a comeback. Notably, Netflix has resumed ad spending on the platform, and Elon’s recent conference in Italy hinted at a mass resurgence of advertisers.

This pattern suggests a clear trend—the Overton Window is shifting, presenting a lucrative opportunity for advertisers.

For those unfamiliar, the Overton Window reflects what is deemed “acceptable” to discuss in a given time period. Comparing X’s current acceptability versus Twitter’s pre-acquisition norms reveals a broader and more diverse range of acceptable topics, indicating a notable shift in the Overton Window.

A parallel example is found on YouTube. Recent content featuring Elon Musk, Alex Jones, Andrew Tate, and others, discussing topics deemed inadmissible under Twitter’s former rules, remains on the platform with monetization allowed.

This signals a shift in advertiser comfort, now extending to content previously considered contentious.

What does this mean for X? In essence, X’s commitment to Free Speech, even when it temporarily impacts revenue, is creating an entirely new market for advertisers. By upholding Freedom of Speech and embracing its consequences, X positions itself as the premier destination for content generated on this principle—a market untapped by advertisers due to the unwillingness of platforms and agencies to engage with controversial topics.

Anticipating the future, I do not foresee another advertiser boycott. The potential profits are too vast, especially with the Overton Window shifting towards public comfort with dissenting and controversial opinions. Advertisers are likely to flock to X, recognizing the platform’s unique position.

In my opinion, people value the freedom to think for themselves, suppressed for too long. This opens the floodgates for content challenging and controversial, presenting a lucrative opportunity for advertisers due to increased engagement and attention from the public.

It seems like X could make Freedom of Speech profitable. The glimpses we’re starting to see indicate this might just be the case.

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