NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino named CEO of Twitter


Shortly after NBCUniversal announced its long-time ad chief, expected to lead the broadcaster’s Upfront presentation on Monday, would leave, she was named CEO of Twitter.

Elon Musk has named Linda Yaccarino as Twitter's CEO. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

NBCUniversal advertising sales leader Linda Yaccarino is the new CEO of Twitter, owner Elon Musk confirmed on Friday morning.

Musk tweeted that Yaccarino will focus on business operations as he transitions to  executive chair and chief technology officer, focused on product design and new technology.

Just before the news broke, NBCU confirmed on Friday morning that Yaccarino would depart the company “effective immediately," hours after reports emerged that she was in advanced talks to move to Twitter.

Speculation began after Musk tweeted on Thursday that he had hired a new CEO, but didn’t say who it was. “She will be starting in ~6 weeks!” Musk said. 

Yaccarino is not a surprising appointment for Twitter. She has appeared at events with Musk in recent weeks, and as recently as last week, extended NBCU’s Olympics ad deal with Twitter, a move that bewildered some in the ad industry who have pulled back from the platform during Musk’s reign. 

“They [Musk and Yaccarino] seem fairly chummy,” said Dave Campanelli, chief investment officer of media agency Horizon Media.

She also boasts a long pedigree of running one of the largest ad businesses in the industry and an extensive contact list. Reports suggest a majority of the social media firm’s top advertisers have cut or reduced spend on the platform since Musk took over and rolled back content moderation restrictions that brands consider essential.

Zachary Weinberg, VP of e-commerce at Reprise Digital, said Yaccarino’s appointment signals to the ad community that Musk “recognized he had a major revenue problem, driven by the departure of advertisers, and Twitter needs someone with the right skillset to get things cleaned up very quickly.”

“A CEO with a deep media background certainly creates very good optics to start,” Weinberg said. “The safety of the platform is still to be determined based on Twitter’s ability to actually maintain a brand-safe environment.”

Yaccarino’s departure from NBCU follows more than 11 years in a senior ad role, in which time she overhauled the broadcaster’s ad division to unify linear and digital sales. She has also led the media industry on major transformation agendas, most recently pushing for the use of alternative currencies to Nielsen for TV transactions. Prior to NBCU, Yaccarino was a senior ad sales leader at Turner for nearly two decades.

In a statement, Yaccarino said it “has been an absolute honor” to be part of Comcast NBCUniversal.

NBCU has appointed Mark Marshall, president of ad sales and client partnerships, as interim chairman of its advertising and partnerships group. Marshall will report to Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming.

The news comes at an awkward time for NBCU, since Yaccarino was expected to lead the broadcaster’s Upfront presentation to advertisers on Monday.

Campanelli told Campaign US the timing is difficult, but that NBCU is in stable hands with Marshall.

“Stepping into a new, much bigger role a day before the Upfront negotiations will start, I’m sure there will be some challenges, but Mark is certainly up to the task,” he said.

Campanelli said Marshall has been “very close” to clients for some time now and understands agency and client business needs. “I don’t have concerns about anything falling through the cracks,” he said.

While Upfront investments are made based on the strength of a media company’s ad offerings, not the personality leading the sales team, Campanelli said NBCU may encounter problems if the role transition is clunky. And because it’s such a massive player, issues at NBCU could impact the timing of the Upfront season overall. 

“If there are challenges at the start and it takes a little while to get things reorganized and off the ground, it could impact the timing of the marketplace,” he said.

Yaccarino’s departure also comes weeks after NBCU CEO Jeff Shell was ousted after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with an employee. Yaccarino was speculated by some in the industry to be a favorite to take over Shell’s role, but the company opted not to replace him. Instead, NBCU’s top executives report to Comcast president Mike Cavanagh.

Alison Weissbrot contributed to this story, which first appeared on campaignlive.com. 

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