Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter Ads Are Tricky! Watch Five Big Booze Brands Try to Figure Them Out, in Real Time.

Twitter would love to get ad money from big booze brands. So it has improved the way that it digitally cards its users, which is supposed to ensure that you don’t see a Bud Light ad on Twitter unless you’re 21 or over.

This looks like an incremental change from the age-ID system Twitter rolled out back in 2012, and I wouldn’t normally write about it. But, since Twitter’s blog announcing the news reminds us that the company is already working with people who sell beer and liquor, I thought I’d check out the kind of work they’re doing.

Here’s a quick survey from the five brands Twitter called out in its post, sampling the most recent output from each brand’s account. Conclusion: Even people who are really good at marketing are still trying to figure out Twitter. Remember: These are all messages that go out automatically to people who follow the brand on Twitter, and could theoretically be turned into ads that other Twitter users would see, too.

Bud Light (14,823 followers):

Jim Beam (33,938 followers):

Knob Creek (33 followers):

Heineken (67,987 followers)


Bacardi (45,477 followers):

As you can see above, lots of brands are still trying to figure out the best way to use Twitter: Should you treat it the same as you treat any conventional advertising real estate, and slap up a big picture of your product and a slogan? Should you try to engage Twitter users by getting them to play along with a hashtag game? How about using it to distribute a video you’re proud of?

Put it another way: We’ve all heard about that great Oreos ad that went viral on Twitter during the Super Bowl this year. But what do you do if you just want to sell more Bud Light, without the aid of a freak, nationally televised blackout?

Everyone gets that advertisers need time to adapt to new formats. And everyone gets that inserting ads into social networks that didn’t use to have ads is even trickier.

Twitter is a bit of special case, though, because it is now asking investors to believe that advertisers are going to figure this stuff out very quickly. Twitter was barely selling any ads at all in 2010, and now it looks set to do more than $600 million this year, so it seems like things are going well.

But a lot of that spending is experimental, as advertisers figure out the best way to use a format that isn’t really a search engine, and isn’t a purely social hub, and doesn’t offer a lot of space to run big banner ads.

The Twitter ad team has been very smart about slowly onboarding advertisers over the past few years, which helps keep that curve moving up and to the right. But that doesn’t ensure that it will keep going that way — the ads have to work.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus