Elon Musk’s X aims to win back advertisers, signs deal with IAS


Harun Ozalp | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images


The company formerly known as Twitter is betting that a new ad-tech partnership and enhanced safety tools for brands will lure back advertisers who departed in the months since Elon Musk purchased the company.

X, as Musk renamed the company, said Tuesday that it signed a one-year deal with Integral Ad Science, which sells ad-verification technology. IAS CEO Lisa Utzschneider said her company is offering its so-called pre-bid tools, which companies often use to ensure their online ads don’t appear near controversial content before an auction takes place.

“We classify the content on behalf of marketers before they run their ads to ensure that the environment is brand safe and brand suitable for the advertiser,” Utzschneider said in an interview with CNBC.

The partnership follows recent reports from nonprofit groups and third-party researchers who allege hate speech and offensive content have become more widespread on the platform since Musk took over in October. Musk and X have disputed the allegations and last week sued the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate after the group claimed Twitter failed to take action against paying subscribers who post offensive and racist content.

IAS’ technology has been used by Twitter for years, but the pre-bid technology is new and will become available on X as part of a trial or beta period during the “back half of this year,” Utzschneider said. It will be more widely available across the platform “before the end of the year,” she said.

Pre-bid brand safety tools can use machine learning to determine where to place ads in a way that adheres to a company’s concerns, although the technology isn’t perfect and can sometimes result in missed ad opportunities.

IAS provides similar brand safety technology to TikTok and Google’s YouTube, Utzschneider said. X is exclusively using IAS for the year of the contract.

X also said in a blog post that it would start testing the use of “sensitivity settings” to help companies distribute their ads in a way that better conforms to their levels of tolerance for controversial and racy content. Twitter said it built an “automated industry-standard blocklist” intended to ensure ads don’t appear near unsafe keywords on the app’s timeline.

In July, Musk said cash flow remained negative at the company because of a nearly 50% drop in advertising revenue coupled with “heavy debt.”

Tune in Thursday at 10 a.m. ET to CNBC’s interview with X CEO Linda Yaccarino as she speaks with Sara Eisen on “Squawk on the Street.”

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