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Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino courts Hollywood in push for star power

Author: Editors Desk Source: Financial Times
July 28, 2023 at 07:07
Linda Yaccarino, left, poses for a picture with influencer Paris Hilton earlier this week © Linda Yaccarino/Twitter
Linda Yaccarino, left, poses for a picture with influencer Paris Hilton earlier this week © Linda Yaccarino/Twitter
Social media app’s new chief meets with agents at leading talent agencies amid controversy over rebranding to ‘X’
Linda Yaccarino, Twitter’s chief executive, went to Hollywood this week in a bid to woo talent agencies and entertainers days after owner Elon Musk announced the social media app’s sudden corporate rebranding to X.

Yaccarino met agents at Creative Artists Agency and United Talent Agency in Los Angeles, pitching her vision for X in a bid to bring stars and influencers from cooking to music and sports on to the social media platform, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The chief executive also held meetings with Disney, one person said.

The Hollywood trip comes just days after Musk announced a radical overhaul of the Twitter brand, changing its name and logo to “X”, and abandoning the bird logo that has been associated with the platform for more than a decade. While cast as part of his plan to expand further into areas such as video, audio and even payments, the unexpected move prompted concern among analysts that Musk was impulsively wiping out years, and billions of dollars, of brand equity.

One person who attended the meeting with CAA said that Yaccarino, the former advertising head at NBCUniversal, told agents on Tuesday to “dream up what they would want and that X will try to build it”. She urged those present to consider ways they might have a “mutually beneficial monetary partnership”, the person said.

One format suggested by Twitter was getting brands to sponsor an event on Spaces, Twitter’s audio feature, with a celebrity or influencer, the person said. The meeting, which was headed by talent veteran Jeffrey “Jake” Jacobs on the CAA side, ended with the talent agency telling Twitter that they would come back to them with ideas, the person added.

Twitter, CAA, UTA and Disney all declined to comment.

By wooing high-profile names, Twitter hopes it can sell more advertising, and also facilitate sponsorship and brand deals between advertisers and creators.

One former senior staffer said that Yaccarino, known for her deep relationships across the media industry, had been engaging with celebrities since her first week in the chief executive position. She has experience in the space, including as global chair of UK-headquartered talent agency YMU since February. “She’s of this world,” one talent industry executive said.

Yaccarino posted a photograph of herself posing with Paris Hilton on Tuesday, signalling a possible partnership between the celebrity and the platform. Former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson already has a show on Twitter.

Earlier this month, Twitter also launched a creator advertising revenue share initiative, giving influencers meeting certain criteria the chance to cash in directly from the platform.

But attempts to support features beyond the text-based communications Twitter is known for have not always been smooth, especially since Musk has slashed its workforce. Prior to Yaccarino starting, Florida governor Ron DeSantis announced his entry into the 2024 presidential race via a Twitter Spaces audio session in May that was beset by technical glitches.

More broadly, Twitter’s sudden rebrand to X has surprised advertisers, many of whom have left the platform over Musk’s unorthodox leadership style, decision to loosen content moderation and drastic cost-cutting since he bought it for $44bn in October.

With Twitter’s revenues down by about 50 per cent since Musk took over, mending those relationships — and building new ones in the entertainment business — has fallen to Yaccarino. In a tweet on Sunday, responding to news of the rebrand, she presented the broad vision for the platform: “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity — centred in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking — creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities.”

Nevertheless, some advertisers and talent agencies told the Financial Times they remain unimpressed with the shake-up, saying Musk quickly undoes any of the goodwill that Yaccarino creates. One advertising executive from a top agency said that the sudden unveiling of X “feels like nonsense”, adding: “Let’s see how [Yaccarino] can handle this.”

Another advertising agency executive said: “I don’t get the point of the acquisition at all and wonder how much patience his investors have left.” 
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