Elon Musk’s X has unveiled a new ad format that users can’t dismiss or flag.
Credit: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter and now owned by Elon Musk, has released a peculiar new ad format – one of the company’s least transparent products to date.

This ad rollout sheds light on the platform’s struggle to attract advertisers, as users noticed a new type of ad in their For You feed, unlike anything previously seen on the platform. These novel X ads restrict users from liking or retweeting the posts. Moreover, they provide no information about the advertiser and fail to disclose their promotional nature.

X ad
Check out X’s new clickbait ads featuring chumbox content, which lacks display names and handles.
Credit: X screenshot

Mashable has verified this ad format by speaking with numerous X users. They have encountered various ads using this unusual new format, comprising only written text, a photo, and a fictitious avatar to simulate a regular tweeted post.

The content promoted in these ads appears to emulate the spammy, low-quality “chumbox” advertising, often seen at the bottom of content farm sites, a technique popularized by native ad networks such as Taboola.

One ad titled “This Seems Unbelievable, But Happens in Dubai Everyday” redirects users to a third-party content mill website overloaded with ads. Other showcased content includes “These Incredibly Cool Gadgets That Are Going To Sell Out This Year. Action Now!” and “If you suffer from ringing ears (Tinnitus) you’re going to love this recent breakthrough”.

X ad
Here’s another example of X’s shady chumbox-esque advertising.
Credit: X screenshot

Users encountering these X ads have reported being redirected to a third-party website in a new window upon clicking anywhere within the ad, including attempts to interact with the fake avatar. So far, these ads have been observed solely within X’s mobile apps.

Mashable further discovered ads resembling the aforementioned X ads, running through ad networks on Yahoo and Taboola competitors like RevContent. These findings suggest that these ads might actually be served by a third-party ad provider.

The presence of these ads reflects challenges faced by Musk’s social media platform in attracting advertisers. Since Musk’s acquisition, half of the platform’s significant advertisers ceased running ads shortly afterward. Reports indicate that returning advertisers are spending up to 90 percent less on advertising than before Musk’s ownership. Additionally, Musk’s X has witnessed declining revenue every month since the acquisition.

X ad in feed
This is how the new X ads look among real, organic posts in the For You feed.
Credit: X screenshot

This move has prompted X to partner with third-party adtech firms to sell available advertising inventory. Recent partnerships include Google for selling programmatic advertising and InMobi for mobile-focused programmatic ad sales.

It’s evident that these ads reflect the platform’s struggle to fill ad space, thus resorting to ad networks, which generally generate less revenue compared to direct ad sales.

The New Clickbait X Ads

Prior to this change, X ads were normal tweets paid by advertisers to appear in user feeds, replies, or profiles. However, this new ad format markedly deviates from tradition as these ads, though resembling regular posts, lack any interactive features. Engagement buttons such as like, retweet, and reply are disabled, and the ads cannot be viewed in full tweet format.

Furthermore, these new ads lack the usual three-dotted icon to enable user options like reporting, muting, or blocking an account. The absence of this feature renders users unable to report or mute these ads, and they also can’t add Community Notes to flag misinformation or fraudulent content.

These new ads present another peculiar attribute – they lack any identifiable X account. There is no username or handle visible, no indication labeling them as “promoted” or “ad,” and no disclosure of the ad network associated with them.

X ad in feed
Another example of how these new X ads look like next to real posts in the feed.
Credit: X screenshot

As with the previous ad format, Mashable confirmed this ad with various users across X who have also seen and shared these ads. It’s uncertain if X is testing this format or if it’s a permanent change.

These new ads coincide with another move by the company to remove headlines and other context from shared links. Users no longer see article titles, only an image with the domain name displayed as a watermark-like overlay, under a directive from Musk himself, who found the previous format unappealing.

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