Twitter is looking to play catch up to social media rivals in areas like performance marketing, e-commerce and ad tech, making moves in recent weeks to woo direct-to-consumer brands.
This includes sending brands and agencies a 68-page document last week outlining how the company has rebuilt its ad platform to cater to marketers that need more advertising options, and addressing concerns around privacy crackdowns. The lengthy ad deck, which Twitter shared with Ad Age, is titled, “Why Twitter, Why Now,” and it addresses how Twitter is designing its overhauled ad platform to handle issues like Apple’s privacy changes in iOS 14.5 software, which impacts how brands collect data and target consumers.
Also, this week, in one of Twitter’s biggest ad leadership changes in a decade, Sarah Personette, VP of global client solutions, took on a new chief customer role following the news that Matt Derella, global VP of revenue and content partnerships was leaving the company.
“What this narrative sets out to do is describe our increased rate of innovation,” Personette says, referring to the themes in the advertising presentation.
Personette will now fill Derella’s seat as Twitter’s point person for advertisers.
Twitter has not been shy in the past about acknowledging its slow pace. While rivals like Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and Pinterest have been building performance marketing machines with strong social commerce foundations, Twitter had been less aggressive in developing those types of offerings.
Last year, Twitter updated its ad server to handle better personalization and targeted advertising that powers performance marketing, which is the type of marketing that drives website visits and sales as opposed to broader brand campaigns. Twitter has traditionally been strong with brand advertisers, while struggling with the more action-oriented marketers, but it is hoping to change that and boost its ad revenue in the process.
On Twitter, more high-profile brands—Target, Walmart, Disney+ and others appeared in the ad deck—are testing performance ad formats like carousel ads, which display a selection of products and web links. It also has bigger plans for e-commerce in the second half of the year as it integrates with Jebbit, a marketing partner that helps brands generate sales leads. Twitter is developing other marketing partnerships, too, with companies like VidMob, a video creative platform.
In the first quarter of the year, Twitter’s ad revenue hit $1.04 billion, a year-over-year increase of 28%.
“Twitter has spent a lot of time thinking about new ad products around [shopping]” says Megan Jones, exec VP of media at Digitas. “I am impressed with the audience extensions and third-party partners they brought in to enable shopping experiences.”
The focus on e-commerce is directly tied to how Twitter is responding to the new privacy landscape, too. With more commerce and other activities, Twitter can rely more on data coming directly from its service. That’s partly why Twitter is looking to innovate with new consumer-facing updates like Spaces, a real-time audio player that is similar to Clubhouse, Spotify’s Greenroom and Facebook’s Audio.
Sadie Miller, VP of social partnerships at Reprise, a performance marketing agency within IPG Mediabrands, says that Twitter Spaces can keep consumers glued to the app and tie into more direct-to-consumer marketing with shopping programs and app-install campaigns, which are the bread and butter of performance marketing.
In Twitter’s document to brands, the company talked about more dynamic advertising like full-screen mobile “playable” ads that promote game apps, allowing consumers to try the games right in the ad.
Twitter also outlined the main ways it is preparing for Apple’s privacy changes and data restrictions. Twitter highlighted what it calls “Click ID,” which is its answer to Apple’s lockdown of IDFA—identifiers for advertisers in iOS 14.5 software. Marketers will have less access to IDFA under Apple’s new privacy rules, which makes it more difficult to track consumers as they click on ads and then make purchases on other sites. Twitter’s ID relies on first-party data, which is more consent-driven than third-party data, Miller says, and it can tell a marketer how Twitter ads perform. The ID is applied to people who click on links in Twitter ads.
“The updates have led to more touchpoints for measurement, which is always nice especially when navigating any potential signal loss from iOS 14.5,” Miller says.
Twitter is starting to approach the same level of sophistication as its competitors and is adapting like never before, says Amanda Grant, global head of social at GroupM. “Every other social platform is stealing and borrowing from each other, stealing and innovating, and we really didn’t see a lot of that from Twitter,” Grant says. “Twitter now has plans for the ‘cookieless’ future and how to survive the post-iOS 14.5 world. It needs experiences that keep people on the platform longer so it has stronger signals for advertisers.”