Twitter’s 2014 Strategy: The Intersection of Video and Data

True second-screen targeting

Twitter is doubling down on its second-screen pitch.

The company has been meeting with agencies and brands since the beginning of the year, showing off its ad product road map in an attempt to counter Facebook’s push into video, according to industry sources who met with the social network. Several of these meetings occurred at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a few weeks ago.

“Twitter is most bullish on video and data, and the intersection of video and data,” said one agency executive who was briefed on Twitter’s 2014 strategy.

Industry insiders signed non-disclosure agreements and could not reveal specifics on Twitter’s upcoming ad products. But clearly, Twitter has spent much of the past year touting its symbiotic relationship with TV.

Case in point: Twitter has been promoting its ability to harness data and insights from conversations surrounding specific TV shows and then allows brands to reach those viewers. And last year, Twitter bought the social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs to bolster such TV targeting capabilities.

“They have the ability to reach people simultaneously on TV and Twitter,” the ad agency executive said. “It’s a second-screen option that’s not happening elsewhere.”

Brands are convinced of Twitter’s value, and the ad spending reflects their enthusiasm. “Twitter spend will increase this year for a number of reasons, one being their embrace of television,” said David Rittenhouse, Neo@Ogilvy's managing director. TV’s use of Twitter will evolve beyond the simple adoption of hashtags in prime time, he said.

Another agency executive said that some advertisers—particularly tech brands—plan to spend five times as much on Twitter this year compared to last.

“If I’m sponsoring [ESPN’s] College GameDay, I can actually take my offline [ad copy], upload it into Twitter and serve it to people after they watched the show,” the source said. “Advertisers are obsessed with it because they’re able to increase awareness. It’s an extension of their TV buying, and they’re [quintupling] Twitter budgets for it.”

These are ad dollars that could be going to Facebook, this source said. Indeed, there is a debate in the ad industry about which platform is better for such TV-esque advertising. As Twitter pushes TV this year, Facebook is rolling out its broad autoplay video ad product. The question is, which platform can target more effectively and which one truly is the second screen—the one viewers scroll through mid-commercial break or after the show. “Twitter is still a nascent play, and the scale and reach isn’t quite near that of Facebook’s,” said a source.

Online video ads are a high-growth area for social networks; eMarketer predicts such spending will surge by 40 percent this year. Overall, digital video ads will generate $5.75 billion, eMarketer says, versus $68.5 billion in TV.

So social still has a long way to go to get close to TV’s ad clout. But few doubt the two-screen dynamic.

“New insights around television-watching behaviors and simultaneous media consumption are making multiscreen strategies an imperative for brands,” Rittenhouse noted. “Twitter ad products will help them to fully leverage the platform beyond just including the Twitter bird logo and Twitter handles in TV creative assets.”