Cannes despatches: Twitter boss Dick Costolo woos his tweet-happy adfest fans

With 56,061 followers and more #canneslions tweets in an hour this year than there were during the entire festival last year it’s clear that Twitter is not only taking over Cannes, and the advertising industry itself but, indeed, the world. Social media is the hottest festival topic on the ground and online and with 400 million tweets firing off globally every day this behemoth can no longer be ignored. Fortunately Dick Costolo (left), CEO of Twitter, was on hand on Wednesday afternoon to tell the Cannes hoards how to ‘harness the power of real-time connections’.

Costolo argues that the old fashioned model – interruptive and noisy spots that are only around for a fleeting moment – just won’t work anymore, a sentiment echoing all around the festival this week. The joy of Twitter is that instead of planning ahead and asking ‘what do I need the consumer to buy, and how do I make them do that?’ brands can see what the consumer wants at any given moment and provide it. The Wispa Gold case is a strong one: fans clamoured for the discontinued chocolate bar to be reinstated and Cadbury’s harnessed this enthusiasm, sparked a conversation, and ultimately brought back the bar. Everyone’s a winner; Cadbury’s get free extensively reaching advertising, and their fans get their beloved bar back.

In the same way that Facebook is a canvas for new campaigns, with Twitter it’s the conversation that is the canvas. A slip up by Costolo gave us the word ‘canvasation’ completely by accident, but I’m almost tempted to coin it as this talk of new platforms is what’s so vital for the industry right now. The scary thing about Twitter for brands is the complete transparency it requires. There’s no hiding if a conversation takes a turn for the worst and the backlash can be huge. Once again, there’s that lack of control and high risk-factor, but as Costolo argues, if brands are truthful, engaging and authentic and plan the way they want a conversation to go they can harness the full power of the medium, reaching millions at minimum cost.

He cited H&M and Burberry as brands who were getting it right, with the former placing a Twitter hashtag on their David Beckham Super Bowl ad, generating a giant buzz of excitement about the new range. They even responded to people saying they were sad to have missed the ad with a helpful ‘don’t worry’ and a link, driving up online viewing numbers. Burberry tweeted backstage pictures from London Fashion Week, giving followers exclusive content before those in the front row. The brands who really get it though, are those who can create a news story from nothing or who can take an unexpected event and generate a brand response that gets as much attention as the event itself. A woman who tweeted about wanting an Audi was shocked when the exact one she had expressed an interest in was delivered to her door, and the buzz created around that simple action was enormous.

As Costolo was keen to repeat continuously, ‘Twitter brings you closer’ and whilst yes, it brings brands closer to the needs and wants of the consumer and thus brings the consumer closer to the brand I only wonder if it leads old school ad agencies closer to the edge.

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About Becky Wilkie

Becky Wilkie is an English Literature graduate striving to uncover the inner workings of the advertising industry; posing as a roaming reporter and working in trade PR. She can otherwise be found playing with her about-to-be famous band Fledglings.