After more than 15 years of not advertising Teslas, Elon Musk is suddenly into the idea of advertising Teslas now that he also owns Twitter, which relies on ads to make money.
One of the most significant differentiators between Tesla and the rest of the auto industry has always been that the auto industry spends billions of dollars on ads every year and Tesla does not. In fact, Tesla has spent precisely zero dollars on advertisements. One might think this was evidence advertising cars is a waste of money, especially for Tesla. After all, the electric car company is profitable, a household name, and a major player in the auto industry. This is something Tesla has achieved in less than two decades without advertising, in part because Musk has a legion of loyal evangelists, and his tweets are essentially a form of free advertising. In 2019, while responding to another account asking if Tesla has a marketing team, Musk tweeted, “I hate advertising.”
But Musk is now into advertising Teslas. He said the idea has “some merit” at a recent shareholder meeting and that Tesla will “try a little advertising and see how it goes.”
While Musk didn’t elaborate on why he suddenly sees some merit in advertising, it stands to reason his acquisition and revamping of Twitter, a major global advertising platform that relies on ad revenue to function, might have something to do with it. Advertising accounted for 90 percent of Twitter’s $5.1 billion in revenue in 2021, before Musk took it private and the company no longer published revenue data. Auto companies including Volkswagen Group, Stellantis and their numerous sub-brands, have been among the many companies to pause ad spending on Twitter. Previously, the social media company has touted how great it is for car brands to advertise on.
Musk’s vaunted plans to wean Twitter off ad revenue have not been successful. In fact, those initiatives have been embarrassing for himself and the company, resulting in public beefs with celebrities who don’t want the Blue Verification Mark of Shame. On some level, Musk appears to recognize this. Last week, he hired a new CEO for Twitter, NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino, who is an ad industry executive. Her task will be to convince advertisers, including major global brands, that Twitter is a safe space to hawk their wares.
Musk doesn’t exactly have a sterling history of doing what he says he will do, so we’ll just have to wait and see if a Tesla ad ever materializes. But if one does, I have a guess as to where we will see it. And, going out on a limb here, I’m going to guess it will be shortly followed by an Elon Musk tweet declaring it a great success.