Staff Reporters
Oct 9, 2023

Elon Musk's 'X' now running clickbait ads that can’t be reported or blocked

As X struggles to attract advertisers, users have reported seeing a new ad format emerge that cannot be blocked or reported, doesn't disclose the ad itself, and doesn't identify who is behind it.

Elon Musk's 'X' now running clickbait ads that can’t be reported or blocked
A new clickbait ad type that cannot be blocked or reported is being tested by the Elon Musk-owned social media platform X (previously Twitter).
While normal ads on X carry the "ad" label, the new unspecified ads on the platform—which are currently available on the company's mobile app—carry no “ad” or “promoted” label whatsoever. The new ads appear in the user's "For You" feed and redirect them to a third-party site when they try to click on them, evoking the experience provided by low-quality clickbait websites.
Users are not able to like or retweet these new X adverts, and the new ad format doesn't make it clear that it is an advertisement or who is behind it. Unlike the majority of other websites that feature clickbait advertising, X withholds the identity of the ad network that is responsible for these adverts.
The type of material being promoted in the ads is consistent with ads found in spammy, low-quality "chumbox" advertising, which are often seen as clickbait adverts placed at the bottom of postings on content farm sites. 
One advert directs readers to a third-party content farm website that is crammed with its own ads with the message "This Seems Unbelievable, But Happens in Dubai Everyday." Other examples of some of the content in these X ads are "Action Now!" and "If you suffer from ringing ears (Tinnitus), you're going to love this recent breakthrough."
An example of how the ads look in contrast to regular posts.
A further sign X is struggling to attract advertisers
Since Musk bought over the business in April 2022, X has had trouble getting advertisers to use its platform, resulting in half of their largest advertisers ceasing the running of ads on the site.
But while Linda Yaccarino, current CEO of X, last week stated at Vox Media's Code conference that the platform had welcomed back about 1,500 companies in the previous 12 weeks, along with 90% of the business' top advertisers, a recent report from Media Matters For America has found that the advertisers who have returned are spending up to 90% less on X advertising than they were before Musk bought the business. In addition, a report last week from Reuters found that since Musk became the company's owner, revenue at X has decreased every single month.
In an effort to combat dwindling ad revenues, X has recently partnered with other parties in the adtech sector to sell available advertising inventory. Google only recently disclosed that it would work with X to sell programmatic advertising. Earlier this year, X also collaborated with InMobi, a programmatic ad sales startup with a mobile focus.
Musk has previously claimed that pressure from activists has resulted in the social media platform's ad revenues falling. Last month, Musk attributed a 60% decline in the company's advertising revenue to the Anti-Defamation League.
In another effort to bolster revenue streams, X is also reportedly testing a new subscription service that can restrict the amount of adverts that are seen by users. According to Bloomberg, in a meeting with X's creditors, CEO Linda Yaccarino stated that the business would launch three membership tiers for users, allowing it to make more money from customers who were not likely to pay the full cost of the premium subscription.
As for the new clickbait ad format, while multiple users of X have shared via their own social media accounts that they have also seen these ads in their feed, it's unclear if X is just experimenting with this new format or plans to roll it out on an ongoing basis. 
Campaign Asia

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