Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter’s Big Pitch to Big Brands: You Want Space? We Got Space.

Twitter’s basic ad unit is a tweet, which is why the company says it is having early success with mobile ads. But advertisers want more than just 140 characters, and Twitter is happy to help them out there, too.

That’s the point of the TV ads Twitter bought yesterday — to showcase what marketers can do when they get their hands on an actual Twitter Web page. And that’s what Twitter hopes to point out in high-profile ad campaigns to come.

Twitter’s Nascar campaign shows what Twitter can do with a single keyword term — and, presumably, what an advertiser can do once they purchase that keyword for a day (or more?). But Twitter has been steadily amping up what advertisers can do on Twitter.com for a couple years.

First it overhauled the site to make it easier to embed graphics and videos. The idea was to play up the notion that you didn’t have to write a thing to enjoy Twitter — you could just visit Twitter.com’s “consumption environment” and look at the the cool stuff other people, and/or advertisers, put up.

Then, late last year, it started offering brands their own pages, which made the message even clearer for advertisers: You can use our site to do more than put up Tweets — you can stick videos on there, or even stuff that looks a whole lot like the big banner ads that everyone says are dead but everyone keeps spending a lot of money on anyway.

You’ll see some combination of this stuff used throughout the summer, in the big Pepsi promotion that Twitter announced last month. It’s also likely to come into play with the ad campaigns Twitter is trying to sell in conjunction with ESPN.

All of this is important to Twitter because, while it hopes that the self-serve ads it launched earlier this year become the equivalent of Google’s AdWords engine, it also wants cool stuff it can sell to the Pepsis of the world. Those guys want a whole lot more than tweets — they want big honking Web ads, like the kind they can still get at Yahoo or AOL — but not at Facebook.

Look for more tweaks to come. For instance, Twitter has some kind of product launch set for this month that’s supposed to make it even easier to get video into the Twitter.com timeline. And while people who’ve heard about it tell me it’s not an ad product right now, it’s easy to imagine how something like that could be pitched to ad guys.

Meanwhile, none of these flashy ads have anything to do with Twitter on mobile phones — which, as Twitter was happy to point out last week — is the way an increasing number of its users get to the service. But Twitter-savvy folks tell me that is supposed to change sooner than later.

That will be a tough challenge to pull off, because I can’t imagine that Dick or Jack will let anyone monkey with the core Twitterstream, for fear of freaking people out. But maybe there’s another way to get there.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work