After Building an Audience, Twitter Turns to Ads

NEW YORK TIMES ~ TECHNOLOGY
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER and TANZINA VEGA

“We feel like we’ve cracked the code on a new form of advertising, and we feel like we’ve got a hit on our hands,” Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief, said last week.

In the last two weeks, the company has introduced several advertising plans, courted Madison Avenue at Advertising Week, the annual industry conference, and promoted Dick Costolo, who has led Twitter’s ad program, to chief executive — all signs that Twitter means business about business. It’s Twitter’s biggest financial effort since April, when it introduced its first, much-anticipated ad program, Promoted Tweets.

Twitter’s startling growth — it has exploded to 160 million users, from three million, in the last two years — is reminiscent of Google and Facebook in their early days. Those Web sites are now must-buys for advertisers online, and the ad industry is watching Twitter closely to see if it continues to follow that path.

“Having been in the business for as long as I have and seeing things rise, I completely have the same vibe on Twitter as Google, Facebook and DoubleClick,” said Curt Hecht, chief executive of VivaKi Nerve Center, part of the digital agency Publicis Groupe. “You can tell by the client interest levels.”

Another telling sign of Twitter’s newfound interest in pushing its advertising is that although fewer than 20 of the company’s 300 employees work on advertising, that is in contrast to one just three months ago.

But many advertisers and executives say there are questions to be answered and experiments to be done before Twitter becomes a must-buy, if it ever does.

“Agencies are uneducated, brands are uneducated and to a certain extent, Twitter is uneducated,” said Ian Schafer, chief of Deep Focus, an interactive marketing agency. “There are no best practices. There are just hunches about what will work.”

Advertising Week was a debut for Twitter, as Mr. Costolo shared the stage with executives from Google and Facebook and wooed ad executives in the audience with a clear message.

“We’re definitely beyond the experimentation stage,” he told them. “It’s working.”

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