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Twitter launches first TV advert in a bid to gain new followers, but confuses many in the process

Social media platform Twitter announced it added just 4m new monthly users in its most recent quarter – which sent its stock tumbling. Determined to get the lines on the graph pointing skyward instead of near-flatlining, the company is rolling out a bunch of TV adverts – the first of which has been confusing to say the least.
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Twitter has paid quite a lot for 30-second spots during the World Series on Fox to show off its new multimedia feature, Moments, to a US audience. It’s a rare move for Twitter, but CEO Jack Dorsey said the company needs to simplify its product to get it into the hands of new users.

The company claimed its release would be accompanied by a large-scale marketing campaign designed to reach people who had never used Twitter before, or who had tried and abandoned it years ago.

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The first of the ads went out during the World Series game between the Royals and the Mets, features fans’ tweets posted during the recent Major League Baseball playoffs, together with highlights from some of the games. There’s the viral bat flip of the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista, a GIF representing the billy goat that cursed the Chicago Cubs, and a spectacular catch from the Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar.

The agency behind the spots famously created the 1984 advert that introduced the Macintosh for Apple.

The marketing crew is hoping the slots will create enough buzz to bring back lapsed users and attract new ones, while at the same time emphasising the brand and stoking the interest of advertisers yet to utilise the service.

Anthony Noto, Twitter’s CFO, suggested the campaign’s goal is to let targeted segments of potential users see the stuff that’s on Twitter every day. 

Kathryn Apte, who leads consumer product marketing at Twitter, said Moments had been built with marketing in mind. The company has identified five core groups of people who don’t use Twitter – including sports enthusiasts and the 18-24-year-old women it calls “social connectors”

Set to “Best Thing Ever” by Jean Tonique, the 30-second slot flashes by in a flurry of quick-fire cuts perhaps too fast and confusing for most.

Here are some tweets from users:

And blogger John Gruber described it as “incomprehensible”, going so far as to say: “Someone should be fired.”

“I’m a baseball fan and I’ve been on Twitter since 2007,” said digital entrepreneur George Nimeh. “To be honest I had trouble making sense of it. I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who is unfamiliar with what Twitter really is. It was really fast, it was kind of a mish-mash of different stuff.”

Nimeh claimed that while Twitter’s user figures showed strong year-on-year growth a few years ago, that growth had slumped to less than 20 per cent early in 2015.

“I think Twitter’s fundamental problem is they’ve never been able to very simply and succinctly explain to people who are not familiar with Twitter what it is – and this particular advert does nothing to help.” 

Some were positive about the broadcast, though. 

Curious to find out what this incomprehensible advert is like? here it is for your viewing pleasure.

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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