Twitter opens a wholesome videos section where brands can feel protected
Twitter is creating a new video-safe zone for advertisers as the platform continues to look for ways to protect brands from some of the more volatile conversations that can unfold on the site.
On Tuesday, Twitter made the latest brand safety change by designing a new category of video called “light-hearted content,” which only includes what it deems to be wholesome video. The light-hearted category is one of 26 “curated” topics that are available.
Twitter has been using Interactive Advertising Bureau’s standard categories, such as automotive, TV, comedy and sports, and Tuesday’s announcement expanded that list to include niche areas, like the light-hearted videos. Twitter’s interest pools now include more specific sports, gaming and lifestyle targets, and also a category devoted to Ramadan, the Islamic observance.
The categories are an evolution of the video ad program called Twitter Amplify, which has been on the market for years. Twitter partners with top publishers including Fox Sports, NBCUniversal, Buzzfeed and Hearst and the media companies post video clips and create shows for Twitter. They then split ad revenue from the commercials that run before the content.
Twitter Amplify is a product designed to attract major sponsors, especially this time of year as Twitter gets ready for Digital Content NewFront season, when platforms try to grab a growing piece of the digital video ad market with formal presentations to brands. Twitter will appear at IAB's NewFronts in May, after taking last year off because of COVID-19 scheduling changes.
Twitter emphasized its wholesome video category in its announcement, a sign that it is responding to advertisers that have brand safety concerns on the service, which has earned a reputation for hosting heated public debates that sometimes scare brands.
“Against the backdrop of the turbulent events of 2020, we heard from advertisers that they wanted to reach their audiences by aligning with feel-good video content that was bringing much-needed levity and entertainment to the Twitter timeline,” Hannah Chang, Twitter’s senior product manager, and Marisa Oberdorfer, Twitter’s global product marketing manager, wrote in a joint blog post on Tuesday. “It inspired us to re-imagine how we could make our content pairing opportunities more dynamic and more flexible to suit advertisers’ changing needs.”
Video has been one of Twitter’s fastest-growing ad segments, and the program with publishers has been one of the catalysts. Twitter has been one of the social media platforms, however, seeing brand safety issues that can deter advertisers. During times of social unrest and political upheaval, such as the 2020 U.S. elections and during the racial justice protests, brands are careful about where their ads appear online.
The incendiary commentary on social media has even grabbed the attention of Congress. Last week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified at a House hearing alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The executives were asked about the roles the platforms played in spreading misinformation on COVID-19 and within politics, and whether their services bear any responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, during which groups that were partly radicalized online stormed the building. Dorsey acknowledged that Twitter had its part to play: “Yes, but you also have to take into consideration the broader ecosystem. It’s not just about the technology platforms we use,” Dorsey said.
The digital platforms have been working on brand safety priorities. Earlier this year, for instance, Facebook said it was testing the first “topic exclusion” tools in News Feed, which would give advertisers control to avoid posts near their ads related to certain objectionable subjects, including crime.
YouTube, which is the leader in digital video, has had continual brand safety issues with advertisers concerned about sponsoring videos related to subjects that fall outside their comfort zones. Just last week, Insider reported on videos depicting cruelty to animals, some of them under the guise of feel-good rescue stories, that also showed ads from big-name brands.
Curbing offensive content
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others are working on better controls and opening to third parties such as the Media Rating Council to provide independent transparency for advertisers. MRC can help verify when a platform is taking steps to curb offensive content and when they are effective keeping brands away from that content.
Twitter’s update also comes as the mobile landscape shifts into privacy mode. Apple and Google are both making it harder for apps and websites to track consumers online, which will make it more difficult to target ads based on personal data. Apps and websites, including Twitter, need ad products that offer ways to target viewers based on context.
“The publishers included in each of our Curated Categories are always hand-selected by Twitter teams for their relevance and conversation driving ability within their category’s topic, ensuring a deeper level of contextual alignment for brands,” Twitter’s Chang and Oberdorfer said.
Meanwhile, the platforms are putting more emphasis on family-friendly fare, as Twitter has done. Twitter highlighted The Dodo, the pet-focused publisher owned by Group Nine Media, as an example of promoting videos that advertisers could support.
“As the No. 1 animal brand globally across every social platform, The Dodo attracts billions of video views to its family friendly, brand-safe video IP every month,” Noah Keil, exec VP of growth at Group Nine Media, said in an email statement. “We’re excited to see new ways for advertisers to buy into our brand-safe, premium content and connect with our hyper-engaged audience at scale.”