Last month, advertising executives at one of the industry’s biggest trade shows gathered to watch Linda Yaccarino – then the chair of global advertising at America’s biggest TV network, NBC Universal – interview Elon Musk. Yaccarino is known to some of her colleagues as the “Velvet Hammer” for her friendly but indomitable negotiating style, and on stage at the conference in Florida she wore a canary-yellow suit and chunky gold jewellery. Sitting across from her, Musk looked pale and sweaty, but despite Yaccarino’s reputation she could not have done more to make him comfortable, encouraging rounds of applause from the audience and asking softball questions about why “the people in this room” – from the advertising industry, which has paid practically all of Twitter’s income so far, but has sharply cut its spending since Musk took over the platform – should feel confident about his leadership.
On 12 May, it became apparent why Yaccarino seemed to give Musk such an easy ride: because it was she who was being interviewed, for her new job as Twitter’s CEO. Musk announced the appointment himself, through Twitter; Yaccarino’s employer did not appear to have been informed. Musk’s own role is changing from CEO (or “Chief Twit”, as he describes himself on the platform) to chief technical officer.