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Daniel Andrews: can Twitter’s new six-second ad rule help it take on Facebook and Instagram?

Last month Twitter rolled out a new video ad bidding option. It allows advertisers and marketers to run videos of 15 seconds or shorter, but they’ll only be charged if the user watches the ad for a full six seconds. In Twitter’s words, the new feature is a ‘flexible option for advertisers who care about the completed view metric, but are ready to lean into the mobile-first paradigm and develop short-form assets optimised for in-feed viewing.’

Facebook and Instagram have seen an ad spend of £2,541 million in 2019 and Twitter has received around ten per cent of that, so it’s unsurprising to see the platform rolling out new, innovative forms of advertising. Video now accounts for more than half of Twitter’s ad revenue, and it has worked hard to avoid the accusation of inappropriate advertising, which has blighted YouTube in recent months. In fact, Social Media Today reports that Twitter mentions ‘brand-safe’ four times in its announcement post for its new feature. And while Twitter can’t yet take on the giants, its ‘approved publishers’ policy means it retains control over who is advertising and where. And they are now offering something original, something unique to them.

The mobile video trend has been around for a while. Unlike AI, it’s easily accessible since we all have mobile devices on which we can watch video —something all marketers know. The influencer analytics tool Instascreener has shown that influencer ads and sponsored posts are 277 per cent more ‘emotionally intense’ than TV ads, which seems to point to the potential of short-form social content to engage with viewers, and Twitter’s own data appears to back this up: people are 31 per cent more likely to remember what they saw on the platform than when they’re simply browsing.

US Nielsen Brand Effect data has corroborated this: the data indicates that people who see in-stream video ads on Twitter are 70 per cent more likely to recall the ad, 28 per cent more likely to be aware of the brand, and have a six percent higher purchase intent when compared to those who haven’t been exposed to video ads.

Marketers, however, will likely be divided on what the six-second rule really means for them. The comparison between Twitter and the other social media platforms is highly relevant because, although the new six-second rule is very appealing to marketers, we also have a very established and productive relationship with the other social media platforms. For that reason, only large companies with vast marketing departments and dedicated social teams will likely give the new feature a punt to begin with. For smaller brands, we’re unlikely to see adoption with any real enthusiasm and urgency until the results of Twitter’s experiment are well and truly in.

Though new forms of technology and features on existing platforms often show huge potential for marketers, one principle tends to hold true. Marketers must always make decisions in the light of their business and its goals, or their client’s business and its goals, as the case may be. Brands and industries differ significantly, and this must be reflected in how marketers approach their work. A truly bespoke and considered take on marketing demands this way of looking at work. Some of our clients, such as the home security tech company Arlo, do especially well with a more visual approach, but that isn’t the case for every brand. And in the travel industry, where data shows trust is paramount and customer anxieties run high, roughly 45 different touchpoints are involved before someone books holiday accommodation. A more nuanced approach is therefore required.

Even though the trend towards short-form, mobile-first content sometimes seems inexorable, features like Twitter’s new ad rule should form only part of a marketing strategy, especially so soon after its introduction. It should be seen as something to be positioned alongside traditional elements such as TV spots, and not as a replacement. Of course only time will tell us how effective the six-second rule will really be. But it is certainly an exciting new addition to the marketer’s toolbox.

Daniel Andrews is founder and MD of content agency the tree.

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