Silicon Valley Pans for Madison Avenue Gold

With Its 'Promoted Tweets' Launch, Twitter Is Latest California Company to Push Ad-Supported Business Model in New York

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David Berkowitz
David Berkowitz
I'll admit it -- I was duped by Twitter's play-fake.

Over the weekend, I sent a note to some colleagues to keep an eye on Chirp, Twitter's official developer conference in San Francisco this week, for any news that would affect advertisers. I didn't even bother mentioning that Twitter Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo was giving a keynote address at Advertising Age's Digital Conference in New York a day earlier.

Then Tuesday morning hit, and before I even arrived at the Ad Age event, my inbox was flooded with inquiries and thoughts about Twitter's new ad model for "promoted tweets." Ad Age broke the story, and the whole launch happened a few hours later at Ad Age's event -- just a couple blocks from Madison Avenue, right in the heart of Silicon Alley. Presenting on stage with Mr. Costolo were Porter Gale of Virgin America and Ellen Stone of Bravo, reinforcing the marketer focus.

I should have seen it coming. It's hardly the first time Silicon Valley companies came to New York when announcing an ad-supported business model. It was only January when Seesmic, one of the most beloved mobile and desktop Twitter clients, announced its Look interface with a number of big brands in tow. The venue? The headquarters of the enduring media bastion, The New York Times.

They're not alone. Sometimes these companies will hold more intimate events with agencies, such as one Silicon Valley stalwart that held a private event at Eleven Madison, one of the only restaurants to receive four stars from the Times; the menu hangs in my office. Many others keep sending emissaries over, often relocating them (generally to Brooklyn) to provide easier access.

Mr. Costolo's keynote was the exclamation point, though. Especially since Facebook and MySpace included advertising early on, this was the most anticipated tech company business model debut since Google, and with Google there was nowhere near the amount of guesswork. Twitter's COO came here, handily upstaging founder Evan Williams' South by Southwest appearance and perhaps overshadowing anything that comes out of Chirp. Flanked by Bravo and Virgin America, he showed how Twitter was forging a partnership with marketers, and the marketers took this theoretical ad model and made it practical.

Maybe it's not such a Valley-Alley rivalry after all. We New Yorkers are more than happy to entertain our Californian counterparts and will bring our marketers and menus to the table.

David Berkowitz is senior director of Emerging Media & Innovation, 360i.
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