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Over the past two weeks, several of the largest online ad platforms have taken swift steps to address problems with advertisers attempting to profit by stoking fears during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube have all responded in unique ways to stop the flow of misinformation, prevent profiteering, and provide new resources to protect public health.

Google Ads Blocks Advertisers Capitalizing on Crisis

This week, Google Ads updated its Inappropriate Content policy to specifically disallow content which:

“…potentially capitalizes on or lacks reasonable sensitivity towards a natural disaster, conflict, death, public health emergency, or other tragic event.”

The new regulation specifically cites price gouging, selling essential supplies that are in high demand but scarcely available, or ads that use sensitive keywords to manipulate their click-through rate.

For more details about which strategies to avoid and what keywords to be careful about using during this time, check out the full help page Google Ads has created for advertisers.

Google and Bing Block COVID-related Ads

Initially, Google had introduced a policy which entirely disallowed advertising products or services related to coronavirus across the entire platform. However, recent reports suggest they have internally revised this policy to make an exception for trusted organizations like hospitals, medical providers, or other major organizations attempting to provide reliable information to the public.

The search engine is also blocking the sale of face masks on its ad platform, following similar policies from Facebook.

Bing has taken similar steps by blocking all ads related to COVID-19, except those coming from trusted sources.

As a Microsoft spokesperson explained:

“Microsoft Advertising has taken precautionary measures to block ads for delivery related directly to COVID-19 under the Microsoft Advertising Sensitive advertising policy. This precaution also applies to some COVID-19 related medical supplies. We will only allow Public Service Announcements from trusted sources, such as official Govt. agencies, to promote COVID-19 content.”

Facebook and Instagram Block COVID-19 Ads, Create New Resources

Since March, both Facebook Ads and Instagram have been blocking the sale of face masks on their platforms. The policy has since been expanded to include hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes, and COVID-19 testing for children.

At the same time, Facebook has created several new resources for both businesses and the general public, many of which can be found in the new “Marketing for Uncertain Times” deck which contains industry playbooks and general advice for staying informed.

Twitter Gives Advertisers Leeway

After originally banning any and all ads which mentioned “coronavirus” or “COVID-19”, Twitter has revised its ad policies to allow some advertisers to mention the virus.

As the company explains:

“In response to the shifting advertising landscape, and in order to support helpful causes during this time, we’re now allowing managed clients and partners to advertise content containing implicit or explicit reference to COVID-19 in certain use cases, with restrictions.”

The specific cases Twitter will be allowing are:

  • Adjustments to business practices and/or models in response to COVID-19
  • Support for customers and employees related to COVID-19

Despite this, Twitter says it will continue to block ads which include:

  • Distasteful references to the virus
  • Content that may be sensational or likely to incite a panic
  • Inflated prices or products related to the virus
  • Ads for face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, supposed vaccines, or treatments.

TikTok and Pinterest Partner With WHO and Red Cross

TikTok and Pinterest have taken similar steps as others by blocking ads which “reference coronavirus, including when promoting products or services, to create a sense of fear, or to cause widespread offense”, as a TikTok spokesperson said.

In addition, these platforms have also been working with major health organizations around the globe to help spread relevant information and prevent misinformation.

Pinterest has been redirecting any searches on the platform to official content provided by the WHO to prevent the chance of delivering custom results which could be difficult to monitor for disinformation.

TikTok has taken similar steps by donating in-feed ad space to notable organizations including the WHO and Red Cross to ensure users have access to helpful information.

YouTube Blocks COVID-19 Ads Except From Trusted Sources

YouTube’s ad policies have largely been in-step with Google’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, the platform would not allow any form of monetization on content relating to the coronavirus, citing “sensitive topic guidelines.”

Since then, the company has taken some steps to loosen that policy by allowing news organizations and reputable creators to produce videos about the issue in a sustainable way.

In a letter to the community, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained:

“In the days ahead, we will enable ads for content discussing the coronavirus on a limited number of channels, including creators who accurately self-certify and a range of news partners. We’re preparing our policies and enforcement processes to expand monetization to more creators and news organizations in the coming weeks.”

Despite this allowance, the company stresses it will continue to remove content that violates its policies or spreads misinformation.

Twitter is launching a unique new ad unit which lets brands take over a section of the Explore tab – giving you massive reach with nearly every Twitter user.

The Explore tab is where users can find the latest trending topics and other popular Tweets, making it one of the most visited sections of the site.

In fact, Twitter users might recognize the Promoted Trend Spotlight ads as the same ad format used by Disney shortly before the launch of Disney+. The media giant was given early access to the ad format to help drive early awareness of their streaming platform.

Twitter Promoted Trend Spotlight Ad

While the ad format has now been expanded to all advertisers in the US, UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, and Thailand. However, running the ad still requires contacting a Twitter Partner to ensure consistently high-quality ads on such a prominent area of the site and manage scheduling.

When running a Promoted Trend Spotlight, all users who visit the Explore tab on a given day will see the ad on their first two visits to the tab. After those two visits, they can still see the ad in the standard Promoted Trend ad placement.

Based on their own early data, Twitter says the new ads are a powerful tool to get more attention to your ad and better drive awareness:

“[P]eople spent 26% more time looking at the Promoted Trend Spotlight as compared to the standard Promoted Trend unit. These longer dwell times generated impact throughout the funnel: from +113% higher ad recall and +18% higher brand consideration to +67% lift in stated likelihood to use a brand in the future. In addition, according to internal Twitter data, people were three times more likely to click through an ad in the Spotlight unit than the standard Promoted Trend.”

 

Twitter is launching a new video ad option which allows advertisers to create and run short video ads (under 15 seconds) and only be charged if the ad is viewed for at least six seconds. 

The company describes the new ad unit as 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 optimized for in-feed viewing.”

What You Should Know

The new ads are similar to YouTube’s short bumper ads which typically run before pieces of content or as an ad-break during videos. As such, the ad is believed to be highly effective for driving high view rates.

For example, Alice Oliveira, the CSB Brazil marketing director for Dell, says “this six-second video ad solution, paired with compelling creative, increased our view rate by over 22%.”

Oliveira and Dell were one of the select few given early access to the ad bid option. 

Last Notes

  • The new video ad option began rolling out on Monday and is expected to be live by the end of the week. 
  • It is available for Promoted Video, In-Stream Video Sponsorships, and In-Stream Video Ads that are 15-seconds long or less.
  • Instagram considers a video to be viewable if at least 50% of its pixels are on-screen.

Twitter has released a new type of video ad called the Video Website Card, which is aimed at helping advertisers drive traffic to where they need it most.

Twitter Video Ads

The new ad unit uses a multi-faceted approach to help streamline the process of directing users to your site, mobile app, or any other place you want.

It starts with an auto-playing video ad which Twitter says drove twice the normal engagement of standard mobile video ads in a beta test.

After the video is over, advertisers can include a clear call-to-action to drive viewers to your preferred location. However, if a user taps the ad while the video is still playing, it will continue to play while the website loads. Twitter claims this increases user retention by over 60% because it keeps users engaged while waiting for your site to load.

As you would expect, the ad unit also includes a customizable headline and a destination URL. You can also optimize the Video Website Card for your specific goals, such as video views, website clicks, or awareness.

The ad unit is already available to all Twitter users around the world, so you can start testing the new Video Website Cards today.

 

Twitter advertising

Twitter’s ad platform is reportedly in dire need of revenue. Judging by its latest advertising program the company is testing out, it appears that might be the case. The company is definitely getting quite creative in their attempts to find more business, at least.

Twitter is testing the idea of launching a subscription-advertising program designed to let smaller businesses and advertisers pay $99 a month to have their advertising automated by the company. The service would automatically promote their tweets, as well as run Promoted Account ads for the associated account each month.

“Instead of creating and optimizing separate Twitter Ads campaigns yourself, this program will do the heavy lifting. You just need to continue using Twitter as you normally do — Tweeting updates, links, and media that you want a larger audience to see. Then, the promotion of your Tweets will be automated,” as Twitter says on their business site page explaining the new program.

For now, the Twitter Subscription Ads Beta Program is invite-only while Twitter tests the waters. Based on the information available, it looks set to be aimed primarily at smaller advertisers who are using the company’s self-serve ad tools.

While this might sound nice to businesses interested in advertising but unfamiliar with the tricks of the trade, it’s important to know the program has some pretty big downsides. The biggest would be the amount of control you’re giving up.

Unlike normal ad campaigns where you get to select exactly what you’re promoting, participants in the subscription service will have little to no control over what Tweets are turned into ads or whom they are shown to. The company also notes that “not every Tweet that is added to your Promoted Tweet campaign will serve an impression, and the extent each Tweet is promoted may vary based on performance.”

If you’re thinking you might be able to fold the subscription service into your existing advertising efforts, you’ll also be disappointed to learn that isn’t possible. Any account participating in the program will lose access to Twitter’s self-serve ad platform. “In order to participate in this private beta program your previous ads account will no longer be accessible,” says Twitter.

Twitter Video

Twitter’s video features have been a hit with users, including Periscope, the Twitter-owned live streaming platform. However, the company has struggled to find ways to monetize visual content.

This week, Twitter announced it was launching several changes to make it easier for advertisers to reach video audiences and creators to monetize their content.

For starters, the company is allowing advertisers to run pre-roll ads that appear before a video begins to play. Similar to YouTube’s pre-roll ads, the video advertisements will allow users to skip the ad if they are not interested.

For creators, adding these new pre-roll ads s as easy as signing up for Twitter’s Amplify program and opting-in to use pre-roll ads. You can choose to use the ads on an individual basis or by making pre-roll ads default on all video content.

In addition to the new ad format, Twitter is also making some changes to its Media Studio and Twitter Engage app to improve the monetization of content and advertising across its platform. These changes include:

  • A unified media library including videos, GIFs, and images.
  • Tweet scheduling features.
  • Team management and multi-account support.
  • Improved upload performance and overall stability.
  • An Earnings section detailing your monetization performance.

The biggest wrinkle for Twitter has been deciding how to monetize videos across Periscope live streams. The nature of live streaming video makes it difficult to incorporate ad breaks. Instead, Twitter is allowing Periscope users to seek and connect sponsors for live broadcasts.

These sponsors can then run pre-roll ads before live broadcasts begin.

Considering Periscope videos appear in Twitter timelines and live videos, the decision to incorporate pre-roll ads helps bring the streaming app more in line with Twitter’s other services while making them more attractive for both content creators and advertisers.

Source: Shawn Campbell

Source: Shawn Campbell

Twitter’s ad revenue and engagement may be going up, but Twitter’s advertising platform is struggling to maintain growth as they see fewer advertisers using their service to promote their content.

According to Twitter’s latest shareholder letter, ad revenue grew 18 percent year-over-year, reaching $535 million in Q2. Similarly, ad engagement shot up 226 percent and the cost per engagement dropped by 64 percent.

That’s the good news. The bad news is Twitter is “seeing a continuation of the trends discussed last quarter with less overall advertiser demand than expected. This is reflected in both our Q2 performance and Q3 outlook.

The social media giant says there are two reasons their number of advertisers is dwindling while earnings are growing:

First, there is increased competition for social marketing budgets, which requires us to continuously raise the quality bar on the advertising solutions we bring to market.

Second, while we have worked to drive higher ROI for advertisers (by leveraging our current user base, ad formats and innovations in targeting, creative and measurement), we’re still priced at a premium CPE relative to others. This has proven to be a headwind in growing Twitter’s share of overall social budgets and in our ability to grow faster in both video and performance advertising.

Ultimately, Twitter is going through growing pains and it is reflected by the loss of advertisers. While Twitter is charging more than most social platforms, it is struggling to maintain its active user base who have been largely unimpressed by newer features and changes to the interface on mobile and desktop.

Instead, advertisers are following users who are turning to platforms like Snapchat, which already has more active daily users than Twitter.

The company announced several new ideas to help recapture their audience’s attention and incentivize advertisers to use their service. Among them, it showed off a “new look and feel” to its marketing efforts that emphasize that Twitter is “where you go to see what’s happening everywhere in the world right now.”

Twitter is also heavily investing into live sports streaming with agreements to stream games from all the biggest sports leagues in the U.S., including the NFL, MLB, and NBA. The only question is if these decisions will reignite the spark that originally made Twitter one of the most popular social networks in the world.