Twitter is sending the message that it's all grown up after buying its first TV spot during TNT's Nascar coverage on Sunday.
The ad ran during the airing of the Pocono 400 and introduces a new Twitter product aimed at advertisers: hashtag pages. It features the driver Brad Keselowski taking a photo with his iPhone from inside his race car and then displays the tag line, "See what he sees," and the URL www.twitter.com/#Nascar.
Twitter also uploaded six other Nascar-themed videos to its YouTube page yesterday.
With the buy, Twitter has followed in the footsteps of Google, which became a TV advertiser in a highly visible way by placing a spot in the 2010 Super Bowl. The move is perhaps more anachronistic for Twitter, which is now a 6-year-old company with nascent monetization plans; in contrast, Google was already an advertising juggernaut and had been a public company for nearly six years when it ran its Super Bowl ad. It's since become a high-profile and consistent TV advertiser, with campaigns this year to promote Google+ and the Chrome browser.
While Twitter has frequently announced product news through tweets, the announcement of hashtag or event pages seems intended to make a bigger splash. When Ad Age reported last winter that Twitter was looking into a TV buy and working with former Apple marketing executive Allison Johnson's new agency venture, sources said that the goal of the campaign would be to help consumers understand the utility of the platform and address a user-attrition problem. But the spot that aired on Sunday seems designed to show advertisers that hashtags can potentially be a useful branding tool and not merely a pop-culture phenomenon. It's not clear whether Ms. Johnson's firm, West, worked on this Nascar-themed TV ad.
The #Nascar page is the first of its kind and has a slightly different layout than the brand pages Twitter unveiled in December, which feature customizable header images and enable brands to keep a particular tweet -- often a photo or video that can auto-expand -- at the top, but otherwise had the same functionality as user pages. While plenty of brands have adopted them, there hasn't been much of an effort to draw traffic there as an alternative to Facebook fan pages.
But Nascar's new page has a key new feature, which is the ability to pull in tweets related to a live event from a variety of sources. In the case of Nascar, tweets about Pocono 400 were being pulled in from drivers like Jeff Gordon as well as sports writers, and the curation was executed through an algorithm that searched for relevant content with the assistance of human editors, according to a Twitter blog post. It's further evidence of Twitter's desire to be the platform advertisers turn to when they're looking to execute promotions around major live events such as the Super Bowl or the Oscars. Last month, they announced a partnership with ESPN to create branded campaigns around tentpole sports events.
Twitter declined to comment on how much it's charging for event pages, but precedent suggests that they'll be available to major advertising partners at the outset. Its rollout of brand pages last year was reportedly for marketers who had committed to spend a minimum of $2 million on Twitter's suite of ad products, such as promoted tweets.