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L'Oréal suspends advertising spending on Twitter

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L’Oréal has become the latest big company to suspend advertising spending on Twitter, as major brands and marketing groups grow nervous that inappropriate content will spread on the platform under Elon Musk’s ownership.

The decision by the world’s biggest cosmetics maker comes just days after Musk completed his $44bn acquisition of the social media group, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

While Musk has sought to reassure marketers that Twitter will not become a “free-for-all hellscape”, executives at some of the world’s biggest advertising groups said several clients were privately reviewing — and in some cases curbing — their exposure even if they were reluctant to make their concerns public.

“There’s some quiet quitting going on,” said one ad executive.

Twitter has this week made a renewed push to reassure advertisers, which account for the majority of the company’s $5bn in annual revenues.

In one email sent to a media agency, seen by the Financial Times, the social media group asked brands to “bear with us as we move through this transition”, adding that it had not changed its moderation policies and sought to be “warm and welcoming to all”.

Several big brands and advertising groups have set up telephone calls and meetings with Musk and his team this week, people familiar with the situation said, in an attempt to obtain more clarity on his plans.

L’Oréal is one of the world’s top 10 advertisers and spent more than €10bn on promoting its cosmetics, perfumes and shampoos last year alone. It allocates only a small proportion of its marketing budget to Twitter and is a bigger spender on TikTok and Instagram, which are more oriented to image-making and brand influencers.

L’Oréal declined to comment. Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The beauty company’s decision is one sign of far broader unease among advertisers to Twitter, and follows a similar decision last week by General Motors.

The largest US carmaker said it had “temporarily paused” paid advertising on the service “as is normal course of business with a significant change in a media platform”.

Interpublic, one of the world’s largest advertising groups, has also recommended its clients pause spending on Twitter for the next week.

The US conglomerate behind McCann and MullenLowe told clients they should wait until there is “more clarity” on Twitter’s plans and until the platform had the necessary “organizational capability” to ensure “trust and safety”, according to advice first reported by Morning Brew.

Musk has previously said he wants to loosen content restrictions and undo permanent user bans, raising concerns among some advertisers that toxicity and abuse could proliferate. With US midterm elections next week, there are additional worries about the spread of misinformation and violent content online.

Since taking the reins the world’s richest person has said Twitter’s approach to “brand safety” — an industry term that refers to the risk that ads appear alongside problematic content and misinformation — is unchanged.

Forty civil groups signed an open letter on Tuesday to Twitter’s top marketing clients, including Amazon, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, urging them to cease all advertising if the new owner undermines community standards. The groups said they were concerned that Twitter’s initiatives to moderate content would be “gutted”.

Several ad industry executives said Musk would ultimately need the industry’s financial backing to realize his ambitions for Twitter, and as a result needed to take seriously their concerns about problematic content.

Musk has promised to create a “content moderation council” at Twitter with “widely diverse viewpoints”, and said users who had been blocked would not be allowed back on until the platform had established “a clear process for doing so”.

At the same time, the company has suffered an uptick in hateful rhetoric since he took the helm, which he blamed on a co-ordinated campaign of largely fake accounts. Musk himself posted, and later deleted, an article containing an unfounded conspiracy theory about the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband.

Last week, Kieley Taylor, global head of partnerships at WPP’s media buying agency GroupM, said some of her clients’ brands told the agency to suspend their advertising on Twitter if the account of former US president Donald Trump is reinstated.

Other advertising executives and brands are concerned about Musk’s plans for widespread lay-offs at Twitter, and whether these will hit its brand safety and advertising sales teams. Some of these were unnerved by the resignation on Tuesday of Sarah Personette, Twitter’s chief commercial officer, who had been their main point of contact at the company.