Twitter has removed its blanket ban on ads that mention coronavirus and is now allowing marketers to include their pandemic responses in paid tweets, a move that comes in the face of a global pandemic where many brands’ messages are being shaped by their products and services during the crisis.
The tech giant quietly updated the policies this week, and users on the platform immediately started seeing the results. Brands like UPS, Starbucks and Uber have promoted tweets that mention the pandemic. The move represents a complete reversal of its decision to ban advertising that mentions coronavirus or COVID-19, a policy that has been tried by Google and others to stop the spread of disinformation and opportunism.
However, as the pandemic continues to dominate the daily discussion, any position to prevent all advertising that touches on the subject has become untenable.
“It’s a shift that we’re making from an ads policy perspective because we believe that the messaging that brands and businesses can provide to the world and provide to consumers are going to be positively received,” says Sarah Personette, head of Twitter client solutions. “And they’re going to be positively received because they are talking about what they as brands and businesses are doing themselves in the face of this crisis, and also what their employees and customers need to understand or be informed about in the face of this crisis.”
Last month, Twitter had issued gudielines for brands to appropriately create posts about coronavirus and how they should communicate, but its policies prohibited them from promoting those conversations to reach wider audiences through paid campaigns.
Twitter still has policies that will regulate who is allowed to advertise with mentions of the pandemic and how they can discuss it. Twitter says only “managed clients” can mention coronavirus, which means only brands with a direct relationship with the company's ads team can run these types of promoted tweets. Those advertisers can mention coronavirus in two manners: To promote how business practices have changed to adapt to coronavirus or to show support for employees and customers, Twitter's new guidelines say.
Advertisers that use Twitter's automated self-serve ad program are not cleared to advertise in this way, according to the new guidelines. Also, Twitter won’t allow posts that promote products like fake cures, hand sanitizers or face masks, or posts offering false information related to coronavirus or any other topic.
Twitter is telling brands they can include mentions of COVID-19 if they keep it optimistic, informative and supportive of the community. Personette pointed to campaigns that launched this week from Uber, which promoted the hashtag “move what matters,” and UPS’s message to employees, “thanks for delivering.”