SPOILER ALERT: This post may contain the use of language that you may find objectionable.
So a “media” mogul who’s not getting positive responses to his “strategy” expressed his frustration by uttering a “naughty” word a few times–once, specifically, at another.
Big fucking deal.
Yes, I used THAT word. I probably do more often than I should, and sometimes at inappropriate times. In theory, an event as “classy” such as how this week’s New York Times DEALBOOK was described on its X account (yes, they still have one)– as a forum where New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin and his colleagues help make sense of major business and policy news — and the power-brokers who shape them– shouldn’t have been a venue where one would expect someone as distinguished as Elon Musk to utter the “go fuck yourself” heard round the world. As ENGADGET’s Karissa Bell reported:
Elon Musk, facing the fact that an already financially-precarious X could be poised to lose another $75 million in ad revenue following his boosting of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, has a new message for advertisers pulling back from the platform: “Go fuck yourself.”
Musk repeated the sentiment multiple times… “Don’t advertise,” Musk said. “If somebody is going to try and blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money? Go fuck yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is.”
I, for one, would contend his use of the word “blackmail” was more alarming than his casual use of the word “fuck”.
We have clearly moved well beyond any time where the use of what was once incideniary language should be newsworthy, though it is amusing to see how many different ways that word has been neutered in headlines and graphics. Some use dashes, some use euphasisms like “f bomb”, some use asterisks. Heck, we have a colleague who insists on using as asterisk when referencing the state of Michigan, especially when it is used to name the university that dared to beat his Ohio State Buckeyes three years in a row.
And it’s not like cinema and mainstream media, let alone the internet, have long ago relaxed their standards. Per WikiPedia, the movie M*A*S*H became the first major, non-pornographic American film to use the word. Since then, at least 169 films have used the word at least 150 times. Some have won Academy Awards. And not all of them were set in New Jersey.
George Carlin wrote a memorable comedy routine in 1972 about the seven words you can’t say on television, of which “fuck” is merely third on a list. In 2002 ESPN broke the barrier for its use in prime time during the documentary movie A SEASON ON THE BRINK which profiled the life of the profanity-prone Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight. At FX, we were stunned they beat us to the punch. We adhered to what was at the time a “safe haven” rule that allowed the use of such language after 10 PM Eastern time, because contrary to what some political candidates might think, basic cable isn’t broadcast TV.
But that was then, this is now. “Go fuck yourself”, physical impossibility aside, isn’t the story.
On the other hand–Blackmail? Because a potential advertiser is reluctant for their business to be associated with what they perceive as objectionable content? Sorry, Elon, if that’s what you think, you’re far less of a student of media negotiations than your purport yourself to be.
Advertisers have for years always been cautious about what sort of programming they want their brands to be associated with. When I first started as a media buyer, reruns of THREE’S COMPANY were debuting on local TV stations around the country in time slots as early as 4 pm. Even advertisers who supported the show in prime time on ABC included it on “hit lists” which meant ratings aside we were initially not allowed to place spots in those reruns. But when the first ratings books showed that it overperformed even the most optimistic expectations and rose to the top of a crowded list of newly released shows, by spring, miraculously, the once-objectionable content was no longer on any hit lists.
I KNOW Linda Yaccarino knows this, since she was dealing with this very issue at the time in her own way. Which is why the tone-deaf, placating defense of her boss’ rant was far more disturbing for its lack of relevance than it was its prostrating tone.
Come on, Yakko. Are you fuckin’ kidding us?
Maybe your boss is foolish enough to try and blame everyone except himself and his content for his inability to make a buck. Maybe he has evolved to being as whiny and finger-pointing as his fellow business failure Mike Lindell, let alone his “competitor” who runs Truth Social, into having the ludicrous belief that, somehow, “Earth” will vindicate him as being nothing less than the genius his minions and enablers (at this point, you’re well towards the top of any such list) insist he is.
But just as those of us who were buying spots on THREE’S COMPANY, or trying to justify why advertisers should support shows like THE SHIELD especially when it was ESPN that was far more egregiously in violation of any “moral norms” at the time, have been able to do you especially should know numbers, particularly large ones with positive trajectories, do far more to change advertisers’ minds than any rhetoric or shaming can accomplish.
And, per Statista, you seem to have them. As a recent narrative to an uptrending graphic authored by Stacy Jo Dixon noted:
X/Twitter has experienced a turbulent year since Elon Musk came close to purchasing the company, which has in turn raised concerns about the number of bots on the platform. Nevertheless, user numbers have continued to rise. In the last reported quarter, the number of global monetizable daily active users (mDAU) oX/Twitter amounted to 237.8 million users, up from 229 million mDAU in the previous quarter. Overall, this is an increase in mDAU of over 15 percent when compared to the same quarter of the previous year. In addition, monetizable daily active users in the United States also increased, and throughout June and July 2022, X Premium rolled out an increase in the cost of its membership for new subscribers.
Now, are they engaged? Do they have favorable views of companies who are advertising? Are there, contrary to what might be colloquial beliefs, brand lifts?
You may not have those answers at your fingertips. But you can find them out. Hell, you have more potential and scale to do that than almost any company on Earth, including those nasty nay-sayers that have ticked off your boss so much.
Perhaps, since you’ve actually done stuff like that in the past successfully, you might want to advance the use of numbers rather than letters and symbols in both your external communications and your internal discussions as a viable business strategy? A good CEO does that.
You also might want to address what the status is of all the great new content ideas that have been promised for months are. How’s Tucker Carlson’s numbers holding up? There seems to be a belief among some zealots that they’re robust. True? Anything else planned besides the launch of Cybertrucks?
Hell, since one did such a bangup job moderating DealBook, why not suggest that your boss a Sorkin a show? No, not his “friend”Jonathan–er, Andrew. Maybe this one instead? I bet he’d have a few choice words to offer, and not all of them would be four letters. And since you sold a few of his shows, even ones that didn’t get great numbers, I know you could make that shidduch.
At least you’d be providing a lot more credo to whatever judgement day is looming and your boss’ paranoid belief that something other than his own choices could blow this thing up entirely. Maybe give “Earth” more reasions to be empathetic.
And if after all of this your “stone face” does hint at the kind of self-reflection which so many in media still think you are undertaking after all of this recent nonsense and noise, you might get the huevas to tell your boss to do the same thing he dared your advertisers to do.
Please. Whenever and wherever you want to do that. We can handle it. We’re used to it.
Until next time…