How Twitter Stepped Up Its Ad Game

Mobile retargeting helps company shake its 'insular' reputation

With Tailored Audiences, Twitter has signaled to the rest of the ad world that it truly is open for business. The new ad offering enables brands to retarget users based on their desktop Web-surfing habits on Twitter’s mobile app via Sponsored Tweets.

To introduce the capability, Twitter is working with several data and ad tech firms experienced in retargeting; in some cases, these were the first major partnerships for Twitter in this realm.

For example, AdRoll, with close ties to Google and Facebook, is now working with Twitter to introduce its clients—among them, Salesforce, New Relic, Alex and Ani—to retargeting on the micromessaging platform.

“There are few good ways to reach people on mobile right now, and this might be the best way to do it,” said Adam Berke, AdRoll’s president.

Industry sources said Twitter has shown a new willingness to reach out to ad partners, and could start building custom offerings with agency holding companies such as WPP and Publicis-Omnicom.

“This is an opening in terms of how big media players play with Twitter in the future,” one ad executive said. “Until now, the Twitter advertising game was very insular.”

AdRoll and a number of other ad-tech companies are already part of Tailored Audiences. Such demand-side platforms are finding the mobile offerings from Twitter a bit more flexible than that of Facebook, which has not opened its similar Custom Audiences to third parties.

On Twitter, the ad companies can bring their own user, based on desktop Web traffic, and sync it with Twitter data, identifying users and serving them relative ads on mobile.

Adara, a private ad exchange, also found itself working with Twitter for the first time, and now its clients in the travel industry (including Delta Air Lines) are trying out tailored messages on the platform.

“Everyone is getting into the cross-device arena,” said Adara CEO Layton Han. “Twitter obviously is making sure it’s ahead of the game.”

Twitter is, in fact, ahead in opening this type of product to companies like Adara. But Facebook is testing retargeting in mobile as well. The difference is, Facebook is keeping tighter control over how retargeting works across devices. Sources said that's a deliberate strategy aimed at limiting the need for middlemen when the market matures.

Where Twitter lags is in building a real-time-bidding ad exchange. Some early partners in tailored campaigns said that integrating data and buying ads are more cumbersome without an exchange.

Of course, Twitter recently bought MoPub, an ad server and real-time exchange, likely the key to development of Twitter’s own such platform.

Twitter is becoming an ever more essential part of the digital-marketing landscape, and Tailored Audiences could be just the product it needs to land even more advertisers. AdRoll’s Berke called it a “gateway ad product,” much as Facebook Exchange introduced advertisers to the true power of the social network.

Publish date: December 5, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT