Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Like That TV Ad You Just Saw? Twitter Wants to Show You Another One.

samsung_superbowl_adDigital advertising is big, but not nearly as big as TV advertising. So Twitter, like everyone else who sells bits and bytes, would like some of that TV ad money.

Here’s their latest attempt: “TV ad targeting,” which promises that it can find Twitter users who saw a TV ad, and then show them another ad from the same marketer when they come to Twitter.

The basic idea: If you were watching the Super Bowl, and you tweeted about it while you were watching, and Samsung ran an ad during the game, Twitter could let Samsung find you on Twitter and show you another ad, later.

If that sounds like a lot of ads to you, the TV-watching Twitter user, well … all this stuff is free, right?

Here’s a video that shows how it’s supposed to work:

The most obvious limitation here is that, for now, the program is only supposed to work if you tweet about a show while you’re watching it. And since most regular humans don’t write tweets while they watch TV — most regular humans don’t write tweets, period, though they may read tweets — that caps the available audience for this sort of thing. (And, by the way, if this works, then Facebook would really benefit from this, since even Twitter executives acknowledge that it has a much larger audience of people commenting about TV shows than Twitter does.)

You may also wonder if someone who watches a TV show actually sees the ad, what with DVRs and bathroom breaks and lots of second screens and all. Twitter has an answer for that, in a blog post announcing the campaign: “We believe a user engaged enough with a TV show to tweet about it very likely saw the commercials as well.”

The big picture: As it has been doing for several years, Twitter is trying to connect itself to the TV industry by telling both advertisers and programmers that it can help them boost the stuff they’re already showing.

Note that Twitter’s pitch is different from some other platforms that want TV money, notably video platforms like YouTube, that tell TV advertisers the audience they want isn’t watching their stuff. Instead, Twitter wants TV spenders to think about spending additional money with them.

Think of it as “Twitter times TV,” Twitter ad chief Adam Bain told marketers today, “with Twitter being a force-multiplier.”

The stuff powering all of this, by the way, comes from Bluefin Labs, the startup Twitter bought for $90 million a few months ago. At our D: Dive Into Media conference in February, Bluefin founder Deb Roy showed off the way his company connects Twitter and TV, and if you watch the clip below, you can see a direct connection between it and the program Twitter launched today:


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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