“I see I have some new followers,” said Linda Yaccarino, adding side-eyes and waving hand emojis to a tongue-in-cheek post responding to the social media explosion that followed her unveiling as Twitter’s new chief executive on Friday.
Still weeks away from taking up the role, Yaccarino, a respected media veteran known in advertising circles as the “Velvet Hammer” for her silky but tough negotiating style, has already had a taste of the shambolic corporate environment that has swept the platform since billionaire Elon Musk bought it for $44bn last October.
Hours after teasing in a post that he had appointed a new chief executive, a role he had described as a “painful” job that anyone would be “foolish” to take on, Musk confirmed speculation that Yaccarino had accepted the challenge.
The 60-year-old New Yorker leaves a role running the $13bn annual ad sales business at the Sky owner Comcast’s broadcasting division, NBCUniversal. Prior to Musk’s announcement, she had been rehearsing to lead the company’s annual pitch to advertisers on Monday in the biggest event of the year for the business.
Instead, Yaccarino will need to channel her considerable skills to convince many of those same advertisers to return to Twitter, which has seen ad sales halve from about $5bn to $2.5bn as brands have balked at Musk’s moves to drastically relax content moderation policies.
“She is ideal for the job,” said Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder of marketing services giant WPP and digital ad business S4 Capital, who most recently spent time with Yaccarino at the Cannes Lions advertising event in the south of France last year. “I don’t think Musk could have found anyone better for understanding advertisers, both in analogue and digital.”
Yaccarino has softly taken Musk to task over his cavalier decision-making and penchant for using social media to make announcements that have landed him in hot water with regulators, telling him at a recent event to perhaps refrain from making posts after 3am.
However, when she suggested he be held to a “different or higher standard” of conduct, due to his ownership of Twitter and popularity on the site, the world’s second richest man shot back that would be a “diminishment of freedom of speech”.
The appointment of Yaccarino, whose Instagram account features shots with stars including Vin Diesel, Rami Malek and Kim Kardashian, has prompted a scouring of her own background as observers seek to glean her potential decision-making strategy.