Twitter Puts Live Events on a Calendar So Brands Can Buy Real-Time Ads -- Ahead of Time

Projecting Audience Size, Composition and Platforms for Easier Buys

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Credit: Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg

Twitter is borrowing a TV ad sales strategy to make it easier for brands to advertise against the live event-related conversations that the social network is known for.

Throught a new feature called event targeting, advertisers will be able to check out a schedule of upcoming live events within a dedicated calendar, look over information about that event like its potential audience size and then buy promoted tweets that will be shown to people within a seven-day window of when the event is scheduled to take place.

Twitter is rolling event-based ad targeting out widely after testing it with WPP agencies MEC and Mindshare U.K. as well as social ad firm SocialCode.

By letting marketers schedule campaigns potentially months before an event occurs, Twitter is effectively adopting TV networks' upfront ad sales strategy, in which networks present the shows a brand can sponsor months in advance in order to spur interest and investment.

However, unlike the TV upfronts, Twitter isn't looking to use its new event targeting option to sell all of the available inventory way before the event even takes place. Ameet Ranadive, Twitter's senior director of revenue product, said there are no limits on the number of advertisers that can buy ads against a given event and that the event-targeting feature is designed to make it easier for big brands and smaller advertisers to have an equal chance to advertise during a given event.

Being able to schedule a campaign around a live event months ahead of time would seem to go against Twitter's "in the moment" ethos -- and the real-time marketing trend it spurred -- because it could lead to ads like a boilerplate Super Bowl-related promoted tweet that's formulated too early and doesn't reflects events of the day. To make sure campaigns are timely, Mr. Ranadive said brands will be able to pause a campaign after they buy it, which will allow them to make changes closer to when the ad would run.

Twitter's event calendar will show happenings like sports games, holidays, music festivals, TV shows and political affairs across the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Japan. "We're essentially sourcing the events from our sales team and clients directly," Mr. Ranadive said. Advertisers will be able to filter these events based on where and when they will take place as well as by type of event. At launch there's no way for advertisers to be notified when new events are added to the calendar, but Mr. Ranadive said that's a feature Twitter wants to add in the future.

When brands click on an event shown on the calendar, they'll be able to see how big the Twitter audience for that event might be, how the audience broke down between men and women last time as well as whether people were using Twitter's iOS or Android apps or its website to talk about it.

Twitter determines an event's audience by looking at what people are tweeting about, the accounts they follow, the tweets they've interacted with and the keywords they search for on Twitter, Mr. Ranadive said. That methodology also helps determine who to show ads the next time an event takes place.

Once a brand has picked an event to advertise against, it can use any of Twitter's standard ad-targeting parameters -- such as gender, language and device type -- to further pinpoint their promoted tweets.

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