West News Wire: Last month, when Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, was scheduled to be interviewed live on stage at a conference, Linda Yaccarino, the head of NBCUniversal’s advertising department, received an email from a colleague in the sector.
Former WPP executive Rob Norman inquired about Ms. Yaccarino’s knowledge of the article he published after Elon Musk acquired control of Twitter last year. The tech billionaire’s dissemination of false information on Twitter and its deterrent effect on advertisers were topics covered in Mr. Norman’s essay.
According to Mr. Norman, Ms. Yaccarino claimed to have voiced similar worries and that she intended to do so. Her discussion with Mr. Musk would, however, be primarily focused on his efforts to transform the social network into “Twitter 2.0.”
Now Ms. Yaccarino is set to become the face of Twitter 2.0. Mr. Musk said on Friday that he has selected Ms. Yaccarino, 60, to become the company’s chief executive. Hours earlier, NBCUniversal had announced that Ms. Yaccarino was leaving, effective immediately, without saying where she was headed.
Mr. Musk wrote, “I am pleased to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the next CEO of Twitter. He claimed that while he would continue to work on product design and technology, she would mostly handle commercial operations.
By choosing Ms. Yaccarino, Mr. Musk is making it clear that Twitter’s advertising business, not its expertise in social media, is his first priority. Ms. Yaccarino has long had a position of influence on Madison Avenue. Additionally, Mr. Musk’s spooking of advertisers last year has made it difficult for Twitter, which derives the majority of its income from ads, to expand that business.
“Linda’s a force,” said Joe Marchese, the former head of ad sales at Fox Networks Group, where he fought with Ms. Yaccarino for marketing funding. She has one of the biggest jobs in advertising, and the ad market is as hard as it’s ever been.”
Yet Ms. Yaccarino will have to do more than contend with Twitter’s advertising woes. The San Francisco company has been severely slimmed down since Mr. Musk slashed 75 percent of its work force and has grappled with gaps in expertise and technical glitches. Twitter also is weighed down by a $13 billion debt load that it took on to enable Mr. Musk to buy the company.
Most significantly, Ms. Yaccarino would have to work with Mr. Musk, a volatile and unpredictable boss. The 51-year-old Mr. Musk has a history of letting go of executives who fall short of his expectations. Without prior notice, he occasionally tweets updates about his businesses, including electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla. Additionally, Mr. Musk still has total control over Twitter as its owner.
Ms. Yaccarino’s friend and longtime ad executive Lou Paskalis compared her decision to join Twitter to taking a “step into the lion’s mouth.”
He questioned why she would expose herself to such a potential reputational risk given her stature in the field as presumably one of the most adored and trusted individuals on the revenue side. If she fails in the role, then there’s probably no way that Twitter will survive as an ad-supported platform.”
Ms. Yaccarino did not return requests for comment, but said in NBCUniversal’s statement that working at the company “has been an absolute honor.”