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In its latest series of reversed policies, Twitter plans to lift its longstanding ban on political ads “in the coming weeks” and let marketers serve cause-based advertising or ads that educate people or take action on social and economic topics. While some political ad buyers welcome the move, Twitter has work to do to encourage advertisers back to the platform.
“We believe that cause-based advertising can facilitate a public conversation around important topics. Today, we’re relaxing our ads policy for cause-based ads in the U.S.,” Twitter’s Safety account tweeted on Tuesday.
Other platforms such as Facebook and YouTube allow for paid political content.
The platform’s ban on ads from advocacy groups and politicians has been in place since 2019. This policy reversal, however, comes as 70% of the platform’s advertisers fled Twitter. Advertising serves as the main source of revenue for the platform, accounting for 90% of its $5.1 billion revenue in 2021. However, Elon Musk’s takeover in October last year led to a surge in hate speech and misinformation on the platform making advertisers wary. Musk has since attempted to mollify marketers.
Still, Twitter’s move is piquing marketer interest, especially those catering to an energetic community base.
“Twitter plays a large part in driving the news of the day. It’s an echo chamber for society’s loudest voices,” said Reid Vineis, vp of digital at Republican political ad firm Majority Strategies. “So, Twitter advertising will be especially helpful for public affairs advertisers who want to shape the narrative on a particular legislative or regulatory issue.”
This move could open up some revenue for Twitter as it attempts to lure advertisers back on the platform. However, the U.S. has no national elections scheduled in 2023. Additionally, Twitter’s former CFO Ned Segal tweeted that political advertising accounted for less than $3 million in the 2018 midterm election.
Meanwhile, Google and Facebook still dominate political advertising. However, media buyers have greatly diversified ad spend in recent years, with streaming television, text messaging and organic content creation playing a larger role.
As Twitter’s future looks uncertain, and as users have left, competing platforms have rolled out Twitter-adjacent features, such as Cohost and Mastadon. Despite peaks in users, these aren’t “real options” for marketers who would have previously used paid reach to find Twitter’s unique audiences, said Aaron Grote, vp of digital products at Stirista.
“Since Twitter’s ecosystem has already adapted to not having paid political ads, that won’t cause a lot of confusion or strategy changes [for marketers],” he said.
Further, Twitter has not positioned itself as a strong direct-response platform, and many brand-building marketers have left, so it has work to do if it wants to turn that interest into ad dollars.
“Political ad buyers are looking for units and experiences that can change opinions,” said Vineis. “The platform needs to demonstrate it not only is a safe environment for causes and candidates but that it is effective at changing voters’ minds.”