Elon Musk confirmed that the new CEO for Twitter will be NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino, an executive with deep ties to the advertising industry.
“I am excited to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter!” Musk wrote in a Friday tweet. He added that Yaccarino “will focus primarily on business operations” while Musk will stay closely connected to product design and new technology.
Before that announcement, NBCUniversal said Yaccarino would step down immediately as chairwoman for global advertising and partnerships.
Musk, who bought Twitter last fall and has been running it since, has long insisted that he would step down as top executive at the company, which is now called X Corp.
Few expect Musk to remove himself from the decision making process at Twitter, however.
“While he’s stepping back from the CEO title, Musk is far from likely to step back from calling the product shots,” said Mike Proulx, research director at Forrester Research.
Yaccarino, with deep roots in the advertising industry, could be a linchpin in Twitter’s future.
Luring advertisers is critical for Musk and Twitter after many fled in the early months after his takeover of the social media platform, fearing harm to their brands in the ensuing chaos. Musk said in late April that advertisers had returned, but provided no details.
Mark DiMassimo, founder and creative chief of ad agency DiGo, said Yaccarino successfully integrated and digitized ad sales at Comcast and NBC — and that her track record of cross-selling ads across different platforms could appeal to Musk as he tries to transform Twitter from a social media company to a bigger media platform.
Yaccarino worked at NBCUniversal for nearly 12 years — with her team generating more than $100 billion in ad sales since 2011, her company bio notes.
According to LinkedIn, Yaccarino previously served as NBC’s chair for advertising and client partnerships and as president of cable entertainment and digital advertising sales. Prior to her time with NBC, Yaccarino worked at global entertainment company Turner for almost two decades.
Last month, Yaccarino interviewed Musk on a Miami stage last month in front of hundreds of advertisers.
“If anyone can translate the Musk vision into advantages for marketers she’ll be able to do it,” DiMassimo said, prior to Musk’s confirmation. “Even though there’s skepticism and all marketers live in the ‘show me’ state right now with regard to Twitter, if in fact she does go to Twitter this is a powerfully reassuring move.”
Regaining advertisers’ trust will require stabilizing Twitter and ensuring that key product decisions are made thoughtfully and deliberately and not, as Musk has often been known to do, on the spur of the moment, inspired by a fan’s tweet or a passing thought. Industry insiders describe Yaccarino as a marketer’s leader with key advertising expertise, but if she’s to succeed on the business side, she’ll need Musk’s buy-in on the product side.
Musk’s policy changes have led to divisions among users, some who claim to have left the platform. There was more of that over the weekend, but from some of Musk’s most boisterous supporters.
Some focused on Yaccarino’s affiliation with The World Economic Forum, an organization that Musk has previously criticized — suggesting that this could signal movement away from Musk’s “2.0 values” for Twitter. Musk, however, said that the platform’s “commitment to open source transparency and accepting a wide range of viewpoints remains unchanged.”
Others have also questioned Yaccarino’s political leanings. In 2018, Donald Trump appointed Yaccarino to serve on his Council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition for two years. As Ad Council chair in 2021 and 2022, she also worked with the Biden White House to help create a coronavirus vaccination campaign that reached over 200 million Americans.
Bantering with Twitter followers late last year, Musk expressed pessimism about the prospects for a new CEO, saying that person “must like pain a lot” to run a company that “has been in the fast lane to bankruptcy.”
“No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor,” Musk tweeted at the time.