A top marketing executive at consumer products giant Colgate-Palmolive is reportedly wary of Elon Musk’s upcoming appearance at an advertising conference due to the Twitter boss’ “harmful and often racist rhetoric.”
Musk, the Tesla mogul who acquired Twitter for $44 billion last fall with the aim of allowing nearly unfettered speech on the social media platform, is scheduled to speak on stage at the digital marketing group MMA Global’s Possible conference in Miami Beach on April 18.
Diana Haussling, Colgate-Palmolive’s vice president and general manager of consumer experience and growth, wrote an email to fellow MMA Global board members.
In the email, the contents of which was first reported by Semafor, Haussling, who is black, wrote that she was “both excited for the success of the conference while also mindful of the harmful and often racist rhetoric of Elon Musk.”
“While I am a huge supporter of free speech and enterprise we can not ignore the impact of such hate speech,” Haussling wrote. “I especially can’t ignore it as a black woman.”
The Post has sought comment from Haussling.
Tariq Hassan, McDonald’s chief marketing and customer experience officer, also chimed in on the same email thread, according to Semafor.
“For many communities, his willingness to leverage success and personal financial resources to further an agenda under the guise of freedom of speech is perpetuating racism resulting [in] direct threats to their communities and a potential for brand safety compromise we should all be concerned about,” Hassan wrote in the email.
“Further, all of us who lead our brand’s investments across platforms were required to navigate a situation post-acquisition that objectively can only be characterized as ranging from chaos to moments of irresponsibility.”
The Post has sought comment from Hassan.
Despite Hassan’s reported misgivings about Musk, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Post that Hassan is one of several top ad executives who will meet with the controversial “Chief Twit” one on one on the sidelines of the conference to discuss business.
Another marketing executive, Kristi Argyilan, a senior vice president of retail media at grocery chain Albertsons, wrote in the email chain that she was “concerned about the reputational risk for the MMA” while being “even more concerned about the harm or hurt this could cause anyone who is part of our community.”
“By giving Elon Musk a stage, we have signed up to broker an important discussion that must be managed with the utmost of care and respect for those most harmed by his actions and inactions,” she wrote.
The Post has sought comment from Argyilan.
In the email thread, none of the executives cited any specific comment, remark, or tweet by Musk that can be construed as racist.
During the conference, which is expected to be attended by around 700 ad executives, Musk will take questions from NBCUniversal ad executive Linda Yaccarino.
The sit-down is being billed as an “intimate conversation” during which the two will discuss “Twitter 2.0 and what the future holds for marketers on the platform and the role Twitter plays in cultural conversations.”
The Post has sought comment from Twitter, NBCUniversal, and MMA Global.
A source with knowledge of the situation told The Post that the email thread cited by Semafor reflected initial reactions to Musk’s appearance, which was first announced on March 25.
Since then, however, “the conversation has progressed,” according to the source, who added that there were no specific demands to drop Musk from the conference.
The source told The Post that there was also never any threat by executives to boycott the event in protest of Musk’s appearance.
Musk’s in-your-face management style and his revamping of Twitter’s content moderation policies have prompted advertisers to flee his platform.
Fourteen of the top 30 advertisers on Twitter stopped all advertising on the platform after Musk took charge on October 27, according to estimates by research firm Pathmatics, which were cited by Reuters.
Four advertisers reduced spending between 92% and 98.7% from the week before Musk’s acquisition through the end of the year.
Overall, advertising spending by the top 30 companies fell by 42% to an estimated $53.8 million for November and December combined, according to Pathmatics, despite an increase in spending by six of them.
Technology-focused publication The Information, citing details shared by a top Twitter ad executive at a staff meeting earlier this year, reported that Twitter’s fourth quarter revenue fell about 35% year over year due to a slump in advertising.
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