NATPE Keynote: Twitter Execs Say Platform Will Impact TV Ad Rates at Next Upfronts

Twitter Illustration - P 2013
Illustration by: Skip Sterling

Twitter Illustration - P 2013

The micro-blogging giant's managing director of global brand and agency strategy predicts that growing social media usage will have a direct effect as soon as this spring.

MIAMI BEACH – Television viewers' second screen engagement using Twitter will soon impact pricing of some TV advertising, beginning with the network and cable ad sales upfronts this spring -- at least that's what Twitter managing director of global brand and agency strategy Jean-Philippe Maheu predicted during Monday's opening keynote session at NATPE.

Maheu said that since last year Nielsen has begun measuring Twitter ratings showing how viewers engage with shows. "That’s going to drive some activity during the upfronts, where programs with similar ratings may have different pricing based on the Nielsen Twitter rating," he said.

Former NBC Universal executive Lauren Zalaznick, who moderated the panel, asked the ballroom full of TV buyers, sellers, media, ad execs and financiers attending the conference how many were on Twitter and pretty much everyone raised their hand.

Twitter research shows that about 80 percent of viewers use Twitter or some form of social media on second screens when watching TV, whether it is a laptop, desktop computer, tablet, smart phone or other device.

He said they worked with Nielsen on a study that examined a group of 12,000 TV viewers, split among those who don’t use a second screen, those who watch a second screen along with a TV show and those who actively tweet during a show. He said they found 37 percent greater engagement among those who tweet.

"People who are tweeting don’t go to the kitchen or bathroom -- they stay in the room,” said Maheu. “They may not watch everything about ads, but they are watching ... Advertising agencies need to stop thinking all viewing is equal. Nielsen engagement is going to help set pricing in the next upfront.”

Fred Graver, Twitter’s head of TV, said after last year’s upfronts broadcast and cable networks “opened the door to us,” and Twitter executives met with producers, showrunners, writers and talent to show them how to utilize the second screen to better connect with their audiences so their content would engage fans and drive ratings.

Among the shows that Twitter worked with are The Good Wife and Law & Order: SVU. They encouraged the talent, for instance, to live tweet during a show about half a dozen times an hour, and then watch as people re-tweet their messages. “It’s the new autograph,” said Graver, “only better than an autograph because everybody sees it.”

He said in the case of SVU, a show that has been on air for 15 years, they targeted this season. This year the showrunner tweets, as does actress Mariska Hargitay.

They tweeted in advance of the beginning of the season to groups that might be interested in some of the dark, serious topics the show is known to address. They said, “This is what we’re going to be talking about and doing,” to raise the awareness. The show had its best premiere ratings, he added, in five years.

He said that way the story became “a conversation with the audience and more and more shows are doing that.”

Mike Park, senor manger, Twitter Amplify, said they have also been working with advertisers on how to best attach advertising to the Twitter message tied to a show or subject. They are then able to target that tweet to specific audiences by state, interest groups and even zip codes. “They can get in front of one user,” added Park, “based on what they talk about and where they live.”

The targeting of interest groups is an added form of using psychographs – research that indicates a person’s age, sex, location and special interests. “Brands love the platform,” Maheu added, “because they can double down on targeted audiences. They are able to buy television locally or nationally and, at the same time, buy on Twitter to leverage the second screen to what they are discussing.”

In a pitch to TV syndicators, Graver added that there is value to thinking locally. For instance, Twitter is working with syndicators, so if someone is watching “Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune in Akron, Ohio, tweets go out to that market. That helps local stations begin to make connections with their audience.”