Mogul Memo: It’s Too Late for CEO Yaccarino to Eye an X Exit

Linda Yaccarino
Photo Illustration: VIP+: Adobe Stock; Yaccarino: Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Dear Linda,

It must be nice to know you still have old friends in the advertising industry who think well enough of you to try and repair your reputation after all you’ve done at X.

However, reports suggest you are resisting their recommendations that you resign from the CEO post to distance yourself once and for all from your conspiracy-spouting boss, Elon Musk.

And you know what? I couldn’t agree with you more: Don’t bother exiting X — it’s too late anyway.

Maybe stepping down in October would have worked, but at this stage of the game that dog won’t hunt.

You might as well hitch your wagon to Musk with Krazy Glue at this point, Linda, because despite what your deluded pals on Madison Avenue might think, there’s no going back now. Stacking the events of the past week on top of the mound of insanity that’s already piled high over the course of your short reign has seen to that.

This might seem unfair to some. Isn’t Musk the villain here? After his umpteenth hateful tweet, the man has jammed his foot in his mouth so many times it’s a wonder he has any teeth left. 

But the only one acting stranger than Musk would be you, the person who supports him no matter how unhinged he behaves, even as he makes the job he brought you in to do — make X respectable for major advertisers — impossible.

That much was crystal clear last week due to two controversies that rocked the company in quick succession. First there was Musk in classic form, cosigning an antisemitic conspiracy theory on his own platform, as he’d shamelessly done multiple times. Then came a report from watchdog group Media Matters for America that claimed to link ads from global marketers to white supremacist content on X, an allegation the company strenuously disputes. Musk followed through Monday on a threat to sue Media Matters. 

The report implicates you just as much as it does Musk, calling you out specifically for assuring advertisers they were “protected from the risk of being next to” toxic posts on the platform. 

By Sunday night, you had dug in your heels. In a memo that attempted to buck up the X troops with the glassy-eyed “us against the world” mentality of a cult leader, you railed against a “vocal minority trying to use deceptive attacks to undermine our work. She kept tweeting her defense into Monday.

Now I couldn’t blame you, Linda, if you adopted a this-too-shall-pass mentality about all this. When every day seems like a s–tstorm at X, all you have to do is white-knuckle the steering wheel long enough, and you’ll ride things out just like with everything else the company is swirling in, right? 

This time is different, though. Not only did these incidents spur the broadest backlash from Madison Avenue the company has seen since Musk took over, in the form of a flurry of major entertainment and tech companies that have paused their advertising on X, but these latest moves even drew a rare repudiation from the White House

Meteorologists have officially elevated this s–storm to a monsoon.

And what have you done about it? Same thing you always do: issue statements that exhibit a tenuous grip on reality. 

True to form, after Musk’s tweet, you were touting X’s “efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination” despite ample evidence demonstrating the hateful sentiment toward Jews has continued to soar on the platform, as well as on rival social hubs

This is part of a continuing pattern we’ve seen from you at X, in which you seem to have no compunction about making public statements that run counter to what external data suggests and phrasing them in a way that elides certain truths. 

Like back in September, with your oft-quoted contention at Vox’s Code 2023 that 90 percent of the top 100 advertisers were back on the platform, though you conveniently omitted how much they were spending. Can’t be all that much considering eMarketer issued a projection earlier this month that X’s 2023 ad revenues were projected to drop by a record 54 percent.

That number was a mere 40 percent when you joined, so apparently you’ve only made things worse.

If there’s anything more troubling than your relationship to facts, it’s your relationship with Musk. I was there at the Code conference when you gave a disastrous interview in which you contradicted Musk multiple times on basic financial and strategic principles. To chalk it up to you and him not being on the same page would be an understatement; it might be more accurate to say you occupy parallel universes. 

If all this wasn’t bad enough, Semafor reported Sunday that you dispatched your own son, Matt Madrazo, to Capitol Hill in a bid to reboot Twitter’s dormant political advertising business just in time for the 2024 presidential election. I shudder to think what kind of contortions the platform would make to appeal to GOP marketers in pursuit of ad dollars.

Back in July, I floated the notion that you had to be already regretting joining the company formerly known as Twitter given the impossibility of your job even back then: reining in an uncontrollable boss, reversing user metrics heading southbound fast, facing regulators piling on and competitors gaining ground. Suffice it to say, none of those dynamics has changed an iota since then.

I think back to your pre-X glory days at NBCUniversal and consider the possibility that this period could have been a regrettable detour that didn’t define you. I pictured you departing X and going on a PR redemption tour, selling the notion that you were temporarily blinded by your dedication to the mission of the Twitter turnaround and seduced by the charismatic genius of Musk.

You wanted to make it work so badly that once you got into the job, you put on blinders, put your nose to the grindstone and lost your way trying to make it work. 

But the window for conveying such a message work has closed.

We have now passed the point where you could exit X and simply pick up where you left off, as if your Musk era was just some negligible tangent we could ignore. It redefines you in a way the decades of success that came before have essentially been wiped away. 

Look around at your closest advisers: Whichever of them is not currently counseling you to get out of Dodge, fire them pronto. They do not have your best interests at heart and are just riding the gravy train until the wheels come off.

Keep whistling past the graveyard if you must, but at some point your career will end up six feet under.

SEE ALSO: The full compendium of VIP+ Mogul Memos