Twitter To Allow Advertisers to Target Browsing History, Email Addresses

Advertisers Will Be Able to Target People Who've Come to their Websites and Customer Email Addresses

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For the first time, Twitter will allow advertisers to target users based on things they did off the service, like web browsing, as well as personal information like an email address.

The company announced today that it is opening up to third-party data, which will allow advertisers to target people who've visited a website or provided data as part of a purchase. In a move that seems aimed at differentiating itself from competitors, Twitter will allow users to opt out of targeting that uses third-party data altogether by unchecking a box in their account settings.

In contrast, Facebook doesn't let users opt out of retargeted ads served through its exchange or ads served through its "custom audiences" product that uses emails and other data points like phone numbers and addresses to match users. Similar to custom audiences, Twitter will use a process called "hashing" so that emails used to enable the anonymous match are provided in a scrambled, unreadable form.

"It's really just enabling our ad partners to give us data in a privacy-respecting way," said Kevin Weil, Twitter's senior director of product for revenue.

The retargeting Twitter will enable falls short of a full-fledged ad exchange, which Ad Age has reported is also in the works to rival FBX. Twitter will serve the ads itself and isn't working with a wide set of demand-side platforms or retargeting firms. It does have three ad-tech partners -- Media6Degrees, Adara and Chango -- to help execute the match between browser cookie IDs from website visits and Twitter IDs. (They'll send Twitter the pixel containing the advertiser's data.) Advertisers in this U.S.-only pilot are joint customers who also use those firms for other display retargeting.

"Twitter is doing the ad serving," Mr. Weil said. "It's really just about improving the relevance of our targeting."

That means that Twitter advertisers using these features can apply other targeting parameters – like interests or geographies – to slice and dice their audience, which isn't possible with FBX.

Mr. Weil offered the example of a local florist using the retargeting tool to target people who've visited his website, but observed that it's also designed for big brands. He noted that a possible use case for email-match targeting was to deliver a coupon to known customers. Ultimately these targeting capabilities will be additional levers to pull in Twitter's ad auction, and not a separate system like FBX is.

"We expect to see higher engagment rates [with these ads]," Mr. Weil said.

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