Still, there have been moves by brands in recent weeks, especially during the Super Bowl, to dip back into the platform. Doritos, Heineken, Molson Coors, Crown Royal, PopCorners, E-Trade, Pringles, Pepsi and others bought ads around the game, and others were active with unpaid posting. Twitter appeared to be coming back to life with marketing, and brand mentions, a measure of how often people talked about Super Bowl advertisers in the weeks leading up to the game and during the game, were up 150% from 2022, according to Sprinklr, a marketing and customer service software provider.
Twitter’s next big test comes in May, when most of the top digital ad platforms hold NewFronts presentations, which are produced by IAB. Twitter will not put on a NewFronts presentation this year, according to one person familiar with the plans. However, Riedy and his team are expected to be active on the periphery making the case for Twitter, this person said. Riedy is doing the work to “rebuild trust in the platform,” this person said.
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Twitter is fighting for its ad fortunes after a brutal few months. After Musk took over, there were concerns that looser moderation policies would increase the risk to brands, which don’t want to be surrounded by offensive material.
There also were changes that caught brands by surprise, like when Musk started to sell “blue checkmarks” as part of Twitter Blue subscriptions. The check marks had been used by brands to prove that it was their voice on the service. This then led to random accounts buying the check marks and impersonating brands. Musk has since overhauled the program to give brands a gold checkmark as a symbol of authentication, while selling the blue ones as a subscription feature. Some advertisers, who were close with Twitter’s previous ad sales team, were disoriented by the way Musk fired more than half the staff, including people who worked closely with brands to service their ad buys. In late November, Riedy, a veteran on Twitter’s ad team, became the head of sales, providing a sense of continuity.
In December, Twitter’s U.S. ad revenue dropped 71% year over year, according to Standard Media Index, which tracks invoices from major holding companies and independent ad agencies. In November, Twitter's U.S. ad revenue was down 46% year over year, according to Standard Media Index.
Twitter has made some improvements in recent weeks. In January, Twitter announced a deal with DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science, opening a new brand safety tool to show marketers more details about the tweets that appear alongside ads. Twitter also has been aggressively discounting ad rates, offering two-for-one deals on impressions leading up to the Super Bowl, which meant that for every view the advertiser bought, Twitter threw in another one free, matching up to $250,000 in ad spending.
Twitter also has been working with the Media Rating Council to prepare for an audit, a process that has been in the works since at least 2021, when Twitter agreed to have an independent party analyze its brand safety systems. The willingness to work with industry bodies like MRC, and to consider recommendations from the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, another trade organization, instilled some confidence among agencies that the platform is on the right track, according to Prerna Talreja, Crossmedia, managing director, head of digital activation.
“They have completed the pre-assessment for MRC audit and accreditation,” Talreja said, “and they also released adjacency controls to block certain keywords and measure safety via third parties like IAS and DV.”
“However, there still remains skepticism and of course these capabilities still have gaps,” Talreja said. “So, we're not seeing brands immediately rushing back, but there is more interest now."
Contributing: Lindsay Rittenhouse