Everyone’s An Expert

Everyone is an expert in two things – his or her own job, and advertising. This is hardly a new thought; nor is it particularly original. Everyone has an opinion. We might as well be politicians. Or football managers. 

There is nothing wrong with opinions, even uninformed ones such as those held by me on the England football team’s formations. But – to paraphrase Bill Bernbach – an opinion only counts for something when it costs you money. 

Which brings me on to the strange case of Elon Musk and Twitter. 

I profess to knowing little about Twitter, how it works, how it is moderated (is it moderated?), what its strange hold is over people, even why so many get so agitated on there. But I do know one thing about it – pretty well the whole shebang is funded by advertising and is consequently free to users. 

One of the many other things I know little about is Elon Musk. I know he is a brilliant engineer, knows a lot about batteries and makes over-priced cars. 

Nowhere have I picked up on his being an expert in advertising. Or even that he is remotely interested in the subject. In fact, just the opposite – I do not recall ever seeing any Tesla advertising anywhere and indeed I seem to remember that Mr Musk was dismissive of what advertising might do to help him sell cars. 

Not an ad fan, in other words. 

If he had been, or even if he had been remotely interested, he would have known that Twitter is unexceptional as an advertising medium. 

I suspect that Mr Musk’s reasoning on Twitter and advertising went something like this (if that is he even gave the subject a moment’s thought). 

‘Twitter reaches a lot of people. Twitter is therefore desirable to advertisers. The End.’ 

Some of us know better. 

First, Twitter does not reach a lot of people – comparably speaking. I am indebted to Rob Norman, ex GroupM and resident genius on anything to do with online media forms for pointing out in ‘The New York Times’ that Twitter’s 2021 revenue was one twentieth Meta’s and one fiftieth Alphabet’s. And money follows audience as we all know. 

By the way Rob’s piece, not at all surprisingly is excellent. But then he is a bona fide expert. 

As Rob points out Twitter does not provide a safe environment for brands. There are too many fights; too much controversy; too much hate. 

These are not words with which most advertisers wish their brands to be associated. 

Advertisers do not much like risk when it comes to the content surrounding their messages. 

And they especially do not like risk when the upside is so low. After all you can buy the Twitter audience perfectly well in other places, and with less risk. 

It is genuinely a mystery to me why so many people buy advertising-dependent or advertising-related businesses without talking to a few people who understand the ad business. 

And then profess amazement and shock when it all goes wrong. 

So, here is a free lesson. It is not only about size, and quality counts. 

Experts get a bad press. The UK Government Minister Michael Gove will have his Brexit referendum remark that ‘the British people have had quite enough of experts’ live on long after he is gone. 

In my youth the definition of an expert, ‘X’ = the unknown, ‘Spurt’ = a little drip under pressure, was guaranteed a laugh at conferences (we had lower standards in platform humour back then). 

And yet we can all agree on two things. Elon Musk bought Twitter without an expert plan; and advertisers are about to hand him his coat. 

  1. Enjoyed this very much. It’s going to so interesting to see ether he loses his shirt or escapes disaster by showing an even more exceptional side! All best.

  2. Thanks Bob! We’ll see…

  3. So the view is that he is going to be handed his coat and lose his shirt. Any chance of him also being caught with his pants down? Altogether not a good look.

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