Woke United Airlines Suspends Twitter Ads

United Airlines has suspended its Twitter ad spend. That’s not surprising, it’s the most woke of the major carriers in an industry that’s simultaneously one of the most carbon-intensive and most virtue-signaling.

Most of the companies pulling their ad spend are spinning it as caution in the face of uncertainty over what the platform will look like under Elon Musk’s ownership (little has actually changed so far other than a vibe shift), and major corporations are certainly risk-averse, but at the same time how much of it is really just a pullback in ad spend more generally in the face of broader risk to the economy? For United, though, that explanation seems less likely as at least outward statements by travel executives have remained so bullish (in my view overly so).

I certainly feel badly for the half of Twitter employees who were laid off. Several thoughts,

  • Twitter has been a money-losing enterprise. Twitter needs to generate a billion dollars a year just to cover interest on debt used to finance Musk’s acquisition. Cost cuts are as much part of the equation as revenue generation to make this possible.

  • Twitter’s workforce seems to have been mind-boggingly bloated, with programmers who did little programming and staff doing this other than creating value for the business.

  • For all of the talk about how sudden it was, and all the talk about lawsuits, Twitter employees let go are being given more severance than required and not being required to work. It’s hardly the generous tone struck by Stripe but Stripe is profitable.

  • However doing these layoffs so quickly may have been a huge mistake, this many this quickly almost certainly means making many mistakes and losing some of the best talent in the process. Maybe ‘shock and awe’ is part of the turnaround strategy but would waiting a few weeks to figure out whom to fire and not just that to fire have been worse?

Twitter’s cost cuts won’t help if revenue dries up, but ad spend is likely drying up in social media anyway. Facebook’s problems seem just as great as Twitter’s, though Facebook starts from a base of far more revenue. Remember that Twitter was troubled and underperforming when Musk took over!

And while the consensus seems to be that Musk’s approach has been haphazard, and ‘destroying’ the platform he just spend $44 billion to buy, everybody has been talking about Twitter. It’s managed to capture a large piece of the national conversation even in the days leading up to midterm elections, during war in Ukraine, and as the economy teeters amidst inflation and higher interest rates. Musk makes Twitter focal, so I’m not sure he’s doing quite as badly as most people imagine.

Ironically given Musk’s public statements in advance of buying Twitter, one of the least-touched groups of employees (led by one of the most anti-Trump executives at the company) is.. content moderation. Could they be necessary for a pivot to porn?

I have no idea what the future holds for Twitter. It was a bloated laggard under CEO Parag Agrawal and before. Musk is blowing things up, and that will either go very well or very badly. But it will be more interesting and more focal for awhile in either case. It seems like a mistake to walk away rather than to be a part of it, at least a little bit even if you’re hedging your bets elsewhere int he meantime.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary-

    Remember when Time, Inc. gave up half the company to buy AOL? All that money for a company with no moat besides momentum.

    Here comes Elon…..

  2. Gary, thank you for discussing this newsworthy item. I wouldn’t have known about UAs support of censorship if I hadn’t read this.

    My disgust with UA was reached when they embraced BLM. The Socialist-Marxist-Racist-Anti-Semitic group that took millions in donations from the trembling and woke UA.

    The worse part was when UA sold BLM/UA pins for FAs and passengers to wear.

    Will UA take its Wokeness campaign and demand StarAlance partners (Lufthansa and Canadian) stop flights or codeshares to the Islamic Republic of Iran?

  3. Good ole Chad needs to be hung from a Chad. That guy (or gal for all I know) sounds like the twice-impeached hero of his in Mar-O-Lago – full of spite and a self-aggrandizing nitwit. Find a life Chadwit!

  4. United:
    kudos for the BLM support, and more Kudos for dropping the Twitter ads. I believe the Twitter Ads were not great value for money.

  5. LOL @ Glenn.

    Praising communist dictators while making millions to buy mansions. Elite whites never disappoint.

    So when are you giving your wealth to a black family in need?

  6. LOL, time to count the words “leftist” and “woke” from the right wing snowflakes.

    This is called uhhh Freedom, you know, freedom to not spend money on something they don’t feel like associating with.

    It’s not about the money for Elon anyway, right? He doesn’t even need advertisers. He’s fighting the good fight here, and he’s a financial genius. He’ll figure it out.

  7. Remember one of the first tweets that come out of Elon after he owned Twitter? He retweeted a patently false conspiracy regarding Paul Pelosi in a response to Hillary Clinton. If this doesn’t give United or any other company pause to rethink where the company is headed, I don’t know what will. It’s not the layoffs people … it’s the unstable genius who now has the final say on what goes on Twitter.
    Oh and btw while they may claim the core content moderation team remains in place, the entire team who were doing cutting edge work to ensure that Twitter’s algorithms don’t create bias was let go.

  8. There is one travel-related fact in this article: United Airlines has paused ad spending on the platform in ahead of significant platform changes. Who knows what Twitter will look like in 3 months, so why commit to a forward-looking ad buy?

    This article then injects a bunch of non-facts assigning other motives. I’m sure Gary is worked up about the election, but this partisan conjecture sullies what is allegedly a travel site.

  9. Based on United’s past actions, e.g., in relation to BLM, its actions in this matter and its timing are clearly partisan.

    Any discussion will therefore have partisan aspects.

  10. @AFairTexan
    Oh look a delusional mentally ill lefty, but then I repeat myself.

    @Gary x
    False? The jury is still out about that.

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