The Socialization of Ads: How Twitter and Facebook Are Focusing on Marketers


Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP Group CEO, says Twitter is a “PR medium,” not an advertising one (and neither is Facebook). His comments follow Twitter’s launch of its advertising API touted as a booster for marketers to manage campaigns.

“If you look at the Olympics in London, the big winner was Twitter. It wasn’t Facebook. It wasn’t even Google. We did analyses of the Twitter feeds every day, and it’s very, very potent. But—and this is the old fart speaking—I think because it’s limited in terms of number of characters, it reduces communication to superficialities and lacks depth.”

Undaunted, Twitter is forging ahead and fashioning itself as an ad platform. Its API launch partners include Adobe, HootSuite, Salesforce, SHIFT and TBG Digital. Aside from creating a larger revenue base for Twitter, the API could lead to more ads on the site and apps which is worrisome to users.

“Launching an ad based API does not mean we’ve changed our philosophy or that a user will see more ads in their experience,” said April Underwood, product manager, revenue at Twitter.  “From a user standpoint it doesn’t mean we’re becoming more aggressive in terms of ads or altering the user experience at all. This is all about giving marketers more choice as well as a broader set of tools in their arsenal that they can use in how they want to work with us.” [more]

With this latest change, businesses will be able to work with Twitter’s partner companies to create more in-depth and targeted ad campaigns to run on Twitter, as well as integrate Twitter advertising into broader marketing strategies across a variety of sites and platforms.

“Slowly, but in plain sight, Twitter has opened a marketing window that didn’t exist before, a window that allows marketers — or anyone — to exploit, in real time, moments both expected and completely unplanned,” notes AdAge. Twitter Revenue Chief Adam Bain added, “Marketing has evolved to a series of “now moments,’ and we are the platform that can deliver that moment.” 

In another move to promote simplicity and ease, Twitter has introduced the mobile video app, Vine. According to creative director Rus Yusupov, “An interface should get out of the way.” Vine doesn’t even have a play button. The interface is slick, perfect for quick-hit responses or campaigns in terms of advertisers. “At the very least, it offers a fresh way to share a promotion or a response, give people a look behind the scenes or an imaginative expression of what the brand believes in. This is advertising, just not as we know it.” Vine simply adds another dimension to Twitter’s advertising arsenal and certainly gives marketers using the platform a leg up on the competition. 

Speaking of competition, Facebook began testing its own advertising API in 2009, allowing marketers to create automated campaigns integrating multiple ad products as well as tools for measuring the impact of the ads, the best time to run them and which groups to target.

Facebook is testing “different sizes based on connectedness,” notes “News feed ads coming from brands that users or their friends have liked will still show up large, but ads coming from pages that neither users nor their friends have liked will show up smaller.” This adjustment is a welcome one, as users of the social site are oft to complain about the increasing amount of ads and promotions showing up smack in the middle of their friends’ status updates, no longer restricted to the right sidebar. 

On the mobile front, Facebook is tweaking sponsored stories and application install ads in the mobile news feed including a new like icon and for iOS users, the header, “Suggested App.” 

Sorrell, however, is not convinced. “Facebook to my mind is not an advertising medium. It is a branding medium. So if I can get you to say something nice about WPP or me or one of our companies on Facebook to your wife, your friends, or whoever, that’s good.”  

A “number one ranking on Google seems more important than a Facebook ‘like.’ This doesn’t deny the potency of Facebook. But it has to be seen in the context of a long continuum of brand building.”


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