The smashing success of Twitter’s $1.82-billion IPO last November came with a price: hordes of new investors anxious to grow the stock value, pushing the company to better monetize its ever-expanding database of roughly 425 billion tweets.
Shortly after going public, the company introduced TV conversation targeting, enabling marketers to send promotional messages to users who had tweeted about a specific show. It came on the heels of the May 2013 debut of its TV ad targeting service, which gives advertisers that are running national television commercials the ability to send sponsored tweets to users who have discussed programs carrying their spots.
At the moment, Twitter only offers the services for a selection of broadcast and cable shows, but for a company eager to turn a profit for the first time in its eight-year history, a rollout into online programming would seem like a logical, if not inevitable, next step.
The services would be valuable to brands hawking their wares on Hulu, Yahoo, AOL and others offering ad-supported on-demand streaming, according to Xpansive Media’s Jesse Albert.
“If I’m a brand and I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in media buys and integration on a show, why wouldn’t I want I want to continue that conversation and align myself with someone I’ve identified as a fan?” says Albert, who’s currently producing a Hulu exclusive series My Side of The Sky.
However, there are hurdles: Twitter’s ad targeting uses video fingerprinting technology to automatically detect when a brand’s ad airs, so a different tracking system would have to be implemented for online programming.
There’s no such issue with its TV conversation targeting, which takes advertising analytics out of the equation and simply maps all of the keywords, hashtags and handles for individual shows and tracks the relevant tweets.
“It’s something that we could’ve done already in a manual fashion, it just makes it easier to automate and scale,” says Matthew Ramella, VP of digital for global media buying and planning agency UM, about the conversation-targeting option.
Programs from subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have no ads to target, but they may contain more subtle brand promotions. The prominent display of Sony gadgets in the first season of the Netflix original series House of Cards led the Los Angeles Times to dub it “House of Product Placement,” while Endgadget and Forbes noted a suspicious preponderance of Apple products. (When queried by the LA Times, a Netflix spokesperson said it had no product placement deals in place and the show’s producers Media Rights Capital refused to comment.)
Deal or no deal, the products are being seen on-screen, so brands could take the opportunity to “continue the conversation” with series fans on Twitter. The question is whether it’s worth their while.
Ramella is skeptical. “Twitter makes the most sense enhancing the live TV viewing experience,” he says. “When you start getting into the on-demand and the binge viewing realm, it gets a little more difficult because people are not talking about what they’re watching at the same time.” Also, people are afraid of posting spoilers about episodes their friends haven’t seen, so there’s likely to be less conversation around streaming originals, he says.
But Ramella concedes that conversation targeting could be an effective way for marketers to reach fans of shows monopolized by other advertisers, or to target hard-to-hit demographic sweet spots.
It could also be valuable as a marketing tool to the makers of the shows.
“If I had a digital zombie series or a horror series, I might look for the people having the Walking Dead conversation and promote myself to them,” Albert says.
Twitter was contacted by StreamDaily to comment if such a service could be offered to digital advertisers, but they did not respond by press time.