On Twitter’s 10th birthday, why Madison Avenue execs #LoveTwitter
Unlike Wall Street, Madison Avenue is bullish on Twitter's prospects despite its audience growth struggles. On its 10th birthday, agency execs explain why.
Birthday parties are usually happy affairs. Cakes, candles, balloons, maybe a clown. But don’t expect there to be much celebrating of Twitter’s 10th birthday along Wall Street. The social network’s stock price has fallen by more than 60 percent since last year’s anniversary of the first tweet ever published.
just setting up my twttr
— Jack (@jack) March 21, 2006
You may hear the “Happy Birthday” song along Madison Avenue, though. Even though eMarketer lowered its projected estimate of Twitter’s 2016 global ad revenue from $2.95 billion to $2.61 billion amid the company’s audience growth struggles, marketers remain optimistic about Twitter’s future. Marketing Land interviewed several agency execs regarding Twitter’s current standing, and all were bullish on the company’s prospects.
“The rumors of Twitter’s demise are overstated,” said Ben Winkler, chief digital officer at OMD. “When Twitter comes in, they talk to a bunch of people who spend money with Twitter successfully. Generally that’s the filter we use when we work with publishers: is it working for my client? Everything else is noise.”
Noise translates to questions of Twitter’s value in the shadow of its much larger rival, Facebook. When Twitter’s now-CEO Jack Dorsey posted that first tweet on March 21, 2006, Facebook was still only available to students and wouldn’t open up to anyone with an email address until later that year. Facebook had a head start on Twitter, but not such a big one that the two social networks weren’t pitted against each other like Batman versus Superman. Over the past couple of years, the gap between the two has widened. Last year, Facebook generated 562 percent more revenue than Twitter and, by the end of 2015, attracted more than three times as many active users per day as Twitter did per month.
But the comparison between Facebook and Twitter is Wall Street’s to make. Madison Avenue looks at Facebook vs. Twitter the same way it looks at Facebook vs. BuzzFeed or Facebook vs. Snapchat. With 320 million monthly active users, Twitter still offers advertisers a lot of eyeballs. There’s the perception that Twitter’s audience is a homogeneous group of tech and media types, but that’s not necessarily the reality. “You could argue that it’s the same people engaging in each of these moments, but that’s not what we’re seeing proven out for brands,” said Mindshare’s senior director of social strategy, Joey-Lyn Addesa.
“If you start evaluating your choices as Twitter, BuzzFeed and Snapchat — things other than Facebook and Google — where can I put my money to connect with customers and try to alter their opinions or emotions or insights about my product, that’s when [Twitter] stands out well,” said 360i chairman Bryan Wiener.
Considering the criticisms levied against Twitter’s ad-targeting and measurement capabilities, it may be a surprise to hear agency execs compliment the company on both accounts. For example, Essence’s digitally savvy clients have “quite serious” standards when it comes to measurement, said the agency’s search and biddable director, Gila Wilensky. “We’ve found that wherever we set the bar with Twitter to reach and gather the measurement we need, they’ve been able to hit it consistently,” she said, adding that that “has been one of the reasons we’ve continued to invest with them even despite some of their recent challenges.”
Similarly, Mindshare’s Addesa said she doesn’t feel that Twitter’s ad targeting “is limited at all.” In addition to brands being able to bring in their own data, she cited the availability of third-party data like shopper data and weather data to augment Twitter’s own data.
“They’ve recognized that, in lieu of explosive growth, giving us data and insights is a great way for us to be more confident spending money with them,” Winkler said.
Agency execs also praised Twitter’s handling of its own data. “What they start with is this firehose of conversation and human behavior, and they’ve honed their offering to synthesize that to make it actionable for people like me,” said Addesa.
Last year Mindshare, its client Dove and Twitter identified that a lot of people were complaining about there not being a curly-haired emoji. So to coincide with Twitter’s rollout of emoji-based ads — hashtags that would automatically append a branded emoji to someone’s tweet when used — Dove created one for the curly-haired emoji.
Tweet 1 word to describe your curls.
— Dove (@Dove) November 4, 2015
“Every brand is trying to figure out a way to communicate in this world where selfies and pictures of happy faces and emoticons are the new language. I think Twitter saw that as an opportunity to help facilitate that for brands, and I think brands are really taking to it,” Addesa said.
Even in areas where some of the agency execs Marketing Land interviewed were critical of Twitter, others defended the company.
For example, MetaVision’s chief digital officer, Ray Romero, said the company has work to do in continuing to extend beyond the cost-per-engagement ad-sales model. He called for the company to make its ad costs more oriented around business outcomes like product sales instead of engagement metrics like retweets, or even clicks. “A campaign that is engaging can only be so effective if it didn’t move product,” Romero said.
But Mindshare’s Addesa disagreed. “You do see brand results with people who are engaged with the content. I’m not just talking about clicks and favorites and retweets,” she said.
In another example, Essence’s Wilensky cited Twitter’s aggressive rollout recently of new products for its audience and its advertisers, such as Periscope, Moments and GIF- and emoji-ready ads. “I think that shows they’re really quick to pivot and turn around some of the challenges the company’s facing right now. But it also has been creating some confusion for advertisers,” she said. From Amplify to Niche to Periscope to Moments to Vine, Twitter needs to do a better job specifying which products best suit which goals a brand may have. “Right now it’s little bit fragmented which various tactics you should use for specific campaigns,” Wilensky added.
But OMD’s Winkler focused on the fact that at least Twitter is trying, like an NBA All-Star whose shot is off but continues to hoist jumpers because eventually his rhythm will return. “They came in here a couple weeks ago, and the number of new ad products they’ve rolled out was unprecedented,” said Winkler. “They’re trying a lot of stuff and we’re rewarding them for it,” said Winkler. He described Twitter’s autoplay video ads introduced last year as being “as close to broadcast as they can reasonably make it,” thanks to demographic-targeting guarantees and a high viewability standard.
If you’re wondering why these agency execs are so bullish on Twitter — an entirely fair question considering their sunny contrast with Wall Street’s gloomy depiction of the company — part of it may have to do with the way Twitter has managed its relationship with Madison Avenue.
“In my experience Twitter blows Facebook out of the water in their willingness to work [to] educate media teams on new ad formats and targeting best practices versus Facebook, which will refer you to the help section on their website,” said Wilensky. So on its 10th birthday, Twitter has a leg up on its longtime rival in at least one respect.