Jayanta Jenkins Explains How He Will Help Turn Twitter Around

By Patrick Coffee Comment

Back in June we noted that Twitter was seeking a new creative agency partner after working with TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A. on some campaigns, chiefly one promoting the service’s “Moments” feature.

On Monday, the social network announced another big change: It hired Jayanta Jenkins as its first in-house global group creative director. Jenkins was a global CD at TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A. working on the Gatorade account before leaving last year to run in-house advertising at Beats by Dre. He is also part of the group of black creatives launched earlier this month to facilitate an ongoing conversation about race in America both within and beyond the ad industry.

The Twitter announcement came by way of an interview with VP of global brand strategy Joel Lunenfeld, who positions the Jenkins hire as a necessary injection of creativity for the organization.

Regarding ways in which brands can actually, you know, tell interesting stories, he says they need to “know what they stand for,” using Picasso, Prince and Apple as examples of parties that did know: “The world wants to know what Twitter stands for and it’s time to create that narrative.”

The thing is, Twitter’s founders and executives don’t really seem to know what it stands for right now. Multiple reports have stated that Evan Williams was a First Amendment absolutist, but that becomes problematic when a company wants to monetize a product often used to harass and abuse people between endless variations of jokes on trending topics.

When asked for examples of things that brands can do on Twitter, he mentions the Old Spice guy answering tweets in real time and the Grammy’s “Sing My Tweet,” adding that he wants the in-house Creative Studio to come up with more such ideas—presumably in collaboration with their agencies.

Regarding his job, he says, “This a defining moment in time at Twitter for our brand voice and future engagement,” which we read to mean that Twitter wants brands to be active rather than just posting 30-second spots and paying to make them show up in your feed.

Will that approach work for Twitter? We can only say this: we use the network often. We never respond to brands and we question the value of sponsored tweets. We do not see how Twitter can do a better job of showing users the sort of (revenue-producing) material that they want without compromising the completely unruly, unpredictable structure the network built for itself over the past decade. And yeah, it absolutely must be more responsive to the very valid concerns of its users, given the shocking number of racists and radicals who use it to spread their messages. But that’s obviously beyond what the creative team will be doing.

Maybe the answer is giving more “influencers” a chance to make money. But we somehow doubt it.

All that said, Twitter is an invaluable service and we do hope that Jenkins and whichever agency it chooses to work with moving forward can turn it into a more reliably profitable business. There’s a long way to go and very little time to get there.

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