Fleets were meant to give users a way to share videos that would be, well, fleeting, since they would disappear within 24 hours—like video Stories on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Fleets also gave Twitter a new canvas to explore vertical video ads, which have become a staple of the mobile internet marketing playbook. Just last month, Twitter started testing ads within Fleets with brands including Disney and Wendy’s. Twitter says it discontinued that program, too.
“Our Fleet ads test, which concluded as planned last month, was one of our first explorations of full-screen, vertical format ads,” Twitter said in the announcement. “We’re taking a close look at learnings to assess how these ads perform on Twitter.”
The loss of Fleets is being viewed as a sign that Twitter is acting quickly to experiment and then move on when new products don’t pan out. Twitter has ramped up its testing with new ads formats and media products, introducing other new features like Spaces this year. Twitter has higher hopes for Spaces, which is a real-time, livestreaming audio player akin to the startup app Clubhouse. Twitter says its about-face on Fleets does not reflect on the potential for growth in areas such as Spaces.
Advertisers and major brands never fully embraced Fleets, says Joshua Lowcock, chief digital and global brand safety officer at UM, an agency within IPG Mediabrands. “It feels like the right decision by Twitter,” Lowcock said by email. “From a user and advertiser perspective, we did not see the product get traction or interest.”
Cleaning up the service
Twitter recently sent out an extensive advertising pitch deck to brands about how it views the future of innovation on the service, and Fleets were not a priority. Twitter has been focused on cleaning up the service, which has had a number of brand safety concerns. Twitter also has been rebuilding its advertising technology on the back end to power ad targeting and measurement, especially in the wake of new data restrictions on platforms including Apple iOS 14.5, the iPhone software that controls how apps access consumer information.
Twitter will report its second-quarter earnings next week, which will give advertisers more information about the ad revenue growth and user interest in the app. Last quarter, Twitter ad revenue topped $900 million, growing 32% year-over-year. Twitter has what it calls 199 million “monetizable daily active users.”
While Twitter is dropping Fleets, Instagram is still investing in Reels, YouTube recently expanded YouTube Shorts and Snapchat has been investing in Spotlight, which are all short-form video offerings built to answer the rising threat of TikTok.
“Fleets always felt like more of a stretch for Twitter versus Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts,” Lowcock said. “Twitter’s Spaces product is much more a fit with the way people use and engage with Twitter.”