A study finds that a net 14% of marketers will reduce their ad investment on X in 2024, posing problems for the platform formerly known as Twitter.

New Kantar data published recently finds that the platform formerly known as Twitter has taken a reputational hit among marketers.

Kantar’s Media Reactions 2023 study found that trust scores for X have plummeted to 16% from 28% in 2021. The news follows hot on the heels of endless tinkering with the platform since the headline-grabbing $44bn acquisition by Elon Musk in October 2022.

It’s important to note that this decline had started before Elon Musk took over. However, it has continued throughout his ownership. Nothing signals a change in this downward trajectory at the moment, as X’s leadership continues to announce more changes that don't come across as immediately welcome.

The social network has seen much change; from the functionality of the platform itself, to mooted universal subscriber fees, to its brand identity. So many moving parts in such a short window could be one of the reasons advertisers have become spooked. As brand custodians, marketers need to be able to trust the platforms where they choose to promote their brands.

There’s a reason that changes to platforms are traditionally managed very carefully. Taking just the rebrand to X as a case in point; a shift to a new identity creates uncertainty for advertisers. They need to be taken along on the journey, and to understand the new positioning and what it signifies – a rebadge isn’t a silver bullet and won’t change perceptions on its own. If a media brand appears to be making these decisions on the fly, it might cause advertisers to migrate to better-known publishers until the proof points are there.

And that may well be what’s happening now. In a recent outburst, Musk said X’s ad revenues are down 60%, attributing this to the Anti-Defamation League, a US-based civil rights group, which he claimed had been “falsely accusing [X] and me of being antisemitic”. And whether woke conspiracy or screw up, the data speaks for itself. The Media Reactions study found that a net 14% of marketers now say they will reduce their ad investment on X in 2024 rather than increase it.

Opportunity knocks

So, with marketers looking to take their media spend elsewhere, is there an open goal for other platforms?

Other social media brands could well be poised to take Twitter’s share of eyeballs. YouTube, in particular, is the darling of marketers this year, having achieved the coveted first place in the ranking of marketers preferred platforms, with particularly strong trustworthiness credentials (up 6% year on year).

TikTok is also in marketers’ top five media platforms, and was both consumers’ and marketers’ top rated ad brand for grabbing attention – an increasingly important asset in these times of media fragmentation. In the research, a net 77% of marketers say they plan to spend more on TikTok advertising next year, and 69% say the same for YouTube.

But that’s not the only front on the battlefield; in the face of difficult trading conditions there’s also pressure on marketers to prove that they’re advertising in the places that will have most impact. Advertising campaigns are seven times as impactful among receptive audiences, and Media Reactions 2023 finds consumers overwhelmingly favour ads that they see in person while they go about their daily lives, at the cinema, sponsored events, or in-store.

All five of consumers’ most preferred channels are in spaces experienced in person rather than while they’re scrolling online or watching TV. That’s not to say that these channels are the only route to success – many digital and TV brands are the most-loved by consumers in many markets (such as Disney in Australia and Amazon in Germany).

At the moment, though, there is a disconnect here between marketers and consumers. Marketers have a strong preference for the new and shiny – and their preferred ad channels are dominated by digital ones like online video, video streaming and social media stories (although sponsored events and digital OOH make the cut, too.)

And while a net 24% of marketers say they plan to spend more on sponsored events in 2024, it doesn’t even make the top 10 channels they plan to spend more on next year – which is entirely made up of digital channels. History has shown us that often marketers follow the lead of consumers, so we could see a rebalancing of spend as they take a more holistic approach to campaigns.