Twitter Calls on Former Apple Exec for Marketing Help

Social-Media Service Reaches Out to Johnson for Possible Ad Campaign

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Twitter is plotting to take a page out of Steve Jobs' branding book: It's consulting with Allison Johnson, the former VP-global marketing communications at Apple, to come up with ideas to market the social-media platform to consumers.

Twitter declined to comment on the matter, but two people familiar with its plans say the company has been quietly discussing plans to launch an advertising campaign with the help of Ms. Johnson's new firm, which was formed last year with the help of funding from Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey. It is run by Ms. Johnson and two partners, former Martin agency creative Keith Cartwright and former Katalyst head of digital Sarah Ross.

The trio did not respond to email messages for comment. According to LinkedIn, the name of the consultancy is still "TBA" and "under construction," but Ms. Ross' LinkedIn page lists her current company as West Studios. That's rather appropriate, since it's based on the West Coast, giving it proximity to Silicon Valley.

A boilerplate that has been used to describe the firm goes as follows:

"West is a new kind of brand marketing and creative consultancy born out of the free-thinking, entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley, with a desire to build the next generation of world-leading consumer brands. West partners with pre-IPO companies by operating as an embedded marketing team, working closely with company leaders and internal teams to align business and brand strategies; design and execute brand identities and brand architectures; build and recruit world-class marketing functions; position and launch new products and services; execute full-scale marketing, communications, and advertising campaigns; establish marketing partnerships; and scale brands and marketing programs globally -- all with the goal of creating differentiated, sustainable value as these companies prepare to make their debut on a world stage."

Interestingly, the discussions around a new ad campaign are under consideration at a time when Twitter has no chief marketer in place. Twitter's first VP-consumer marketing, former E-Trade exec Pam Kramer, left late last year after just a few months on the job, so it appears that the ad talks are largely being led by Mr. Dorsey himself.

The move also suggests that Twitter, now more than five years old, is weighing the merits of making a foray into traditional advertising. While the platform commands huge brand awareness, there are some concerns about consumers' understanding of the utility of the service and preventing user attrition, people familiar with the matter said. Everything from TV to print is said to be on the table.

However, if Twitter does plan to move forward with targeting consumers via new channels, it will likely need to tap a media-buying and planning firm to help it get the word out into the marketplace. For example, when Google in 2010 surprised the world with a media buy on advertising's biggest stage, the Super Bowl, it created the spot in-house but hired Horizon Media to handle the media buy.

Twitter has already flirted with launching viral spots such as "Earthquakes" (an attempt at conveying the practical application of Twitter, in its ability to quickly relay important information to millions of people). It also had a brief relationship with PR agency Edelman to help tout the platform.

Contributing: Cotton Delo

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