Staff Reporters
Jun 16, 2023

Twitter: A risky ad spend venture or resurging platform for growth?

SOUNDING BOARD: Can Linda Yaccarino's appointment as Twitter CEO turn the tide on the platform's ad spend debate? Group M, its biggest ad buyer, seems to think so. Campaign asks APAC industry experts to weigh in.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

In a media landscape increasingly driven by digital platforms, it's no coincidence Twitter often finds itself at the center of conversation - particularly when it pertains to online controversy. The popular social discourse channel has drawn intense scrutiny over recent years, be it for its eccentric owner Elon Musk, or its ability to offer fertile ground for political misleading and the perpetuation of false or fake information. Amongst the criticisms of its mailable guidelines and policies also sit its advertising practices. Twitter's approach to advertisements has ignited passionate debates, sparking concerns over user experiences, safety concerns, transparency, and a number of ethical considerations.

Critics have raised their voices against what they perceive as a lack of openness surrounding Twitter's advertising ecosystem. The platform's algorithms and targeting methods have often come under fire for their opacity - leaving users and experts questioning the motives behind ad placements and their potential to manipulate or exploit individuals. Following several accusations of bias and selective acceptance or rejection of political ads, Twitter has taken steps to address concerns and mitigate the noise, through measures such as enhanced ad transparency and disclosure, stricter verification processes and increased labeling - as well as the very pertinent announcement of former NBCUniversal's head of advertising, Linda Yaccarino as the new chief executive officer. Leaving the media giant after a 12-year stint (she commenced with NBCUniversal in October 2011), Yaccarino has been dubbed as the 'superwoman' of Twitter with her extensive experience in helping her former employers navigate through unprecedented upheaval and digitisation of traditional media over the last decade.

So could GroupM's recent assessment that the era of 'high-risk' ad ventures on Twitter is drawing to a close really be true? And is Yaccarino's appointment a signal for 'cautious optimism' to take its place? We asked five APAC industry experts to weigh in.

Kellyn Coetzee
National head, Media and Analytics
Reprise Digital

GroupM's revised perception of Twitter from "high-risk" to "cautiously optimistic" aligns with our long-standing belief that the perceived risks associated with Twitter are primarily related to brand suitability rather than brand safety concerns. As long as brands adhere to sound buying practices, placement options and make effective use of the available brand safety options, Twitter can indeed be a safe platform for advertising. The appointment of Linda Yaccarino comes at a fortuitous time, as Twitter enters into a state of operational profitability for the first time in ten years, as a result of culling nearly 80% of its workforce. She is a well-established leader and proactive advocate of womens’ advancement and now among the 10% of women heading up fortune 500 companies. Yaccarino is no stranger to the digital space, in her previous role as global head of partnerships at NBCU, she fostered the “non-traditional” partnerships with the likes of YouTube, Snap and Apple, and has already expressed her intentions in addressing content moderation policies, algorithm bias and foster stronger collaboration with brands to ensure a safe and conducive advertising environment. Her ability to bring disparate pieces together will serve her well if the intention for Twitter is to become a one stop shop of payment services, delivery, food and more under X Corp.

Chadwick Kinlay
Chief marketing officer

This news signals a positive change for the marketing industry. However, it is imperative for marketers to remain vigilant and address the potential of increased ad fraud on Twitter now. With Generative AI, Twitter's Blue paid subscription, fraudsters now have faster access to larger datasets, enabling them to engage in large-scale fraudulent activities. This poses a demoralising challenge for marketing teams who invest significant time and resources in building campaigns and nurturing consumer relationships, only to witness them being undermined by a swarm of bots. By managing campaigns through controlled budgets and actively verifying advertising engagements, marketers can proactively block invalid traffic stemming from bots, fraud, or competitor clicks. Transparency also plays a pivotal role: marketers need a clear understanding of where their ad spend is allocated in real time to effectively mitigate the risk of fraud. By adopting these strategic measures and investing in the right technology, marketers and agencies can protect their campaigns, budgets, and brand reputation on Twitter.

Jamie Taylor
Head of digital integration
Havas Media, Australia

We observe a mixed view & approach to Twitter from our clients, mainly depending on the industry vertical they operate within. We have a few running regular campaigns, with others adopting more of a test & learn approach. Absolutely vital when buying any digital or social media is third party verification, so brands should be adopting this across all environments where possible. With a background in media, we expect Linda to prioritise the elements advertisers deem concerning or risky, which should drive a better ad experience and in turn, user experience on the platform.

Ash Dharan
Senior Director, Performance
NP Digital

Twitter has made some remarkable progress in offering a greater level of control and transparency to brands advertising on its platform, and this while going through a major overhaul of its business.  Brands can now use a list of negative keywords to avoid their ads appearing alongside sensitive content in-feed for example. By pioneering brand safety on an in-feed environment, Twitter can re-establish confidence among advertisers who left Twitter post-Musk acquisition and haven’t returned yet. We see Linda Yaccarino’s appointment as a positive signal for brands and agencies alike after months of doubts on the longevity and sustainability of Twitter’s ad business, and its publicised aim to offer an ad-free Twitter to its paid subscribers. Ads on Twitter are here to stay, representing an opportunity for brands who want to connect with an engaged audience in an in-feed environment.

Marc Wesseling
Co-founder & CEO

There are quite a few options here [that brands can adopt to maximise security and return on Twitter], but a couple that really stand out for me are: investing in robust monitoring and listening tools allowing brands to stay in the know about conversations and trends that are related to their brand. This enables them to take prompt actions when needed, and mitigate risks, which is crucial. I'd also put emphasis on creating a tailored content strategy, which encourages conversation, and participate in trending topics to enhance brand visibility. I think her [Linda Yaccarino] main concern and job will be to gain confidence again from the audience and advertisers. Under her leadership, Twitter will increase efforts to improve ad platform stability, enhance targeting and measurement, moderate content, ensure brand safety, and provide transparency and reporting options.

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Sounding Board: APAC experts speak on marketing and comms issues


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