Indian agencies’ discomfort with Twitter grows

After Twitter’s biggest spender GroupM joined global advertising networks IPG and Omnicom to warn clients about running their ads on Twitter, there is growing discomfort among Indian agencies with aligning commercials with Elon Musk’s platform.

Although there is no official communication from any of these networks to their Indian counterparts or from an industry body in the country, “you will likely see brands quietly dropping off Twitter”, says a senior executive with a Top 5 network, “like they did with Republic TV at the height of the TRP scam”.

“For any digital strategist on the client side or the agency side, this is almost a given,” agrees Amit Shankar, co-founder and CCO of digital marketing agency Hashtags Orange. The agency has paused all advertising on Twitter.

Don’t look at this as a knee-jerk reaction, say media planners; anxiety over Twitter advertising has been building up since the entrepreneur announced the takeover. “We do caution brands about the possibility of mid-campaign madness or backlash due to decisions the platform may make in the duration of the campaign,” says Ambika Sharma, founder and MD, Pulp Strategy.

In any case, advertisers today are wary of placing their commercials in environments where they appear next to offensive language, hate speech or toxic videos. Says Maddie Amrutkar, founder & CEO of influencer marketing agency Glad U Came, “Twitter users are dissatisfied with recent changes such as massive layoffs, paid blue ticks, and the new pay per view feature, which requires users to pay to view a video or post. Many agencies and brands have stopped advertising on the platform. Social media apps such as Instagram, and YouTube provide a more user-friendly experience, which appears to be driving brands away from Twitter.”

Some agency networks have already activated Plan B, say insiders. If they do “drop off” Twitter, it will not make any material difference to the overall digital advertising scenario, they say. Twitter’s India revenue is Rs 157 crore for FY 2021-22, which is less than 1% of digital ad spends in the country. “Which also means their decision to move to an alternative platform will hardly impact the revenue of platforms like Google, Meta, LinkedIn,” adds Vikas Mangla, founder & CEO, Digital RoI.

As things stand, Google and Meta dominate the Indian digital sector with nearly 80% market share. The two tech giants alone have earned a whopping Rs 41,115 crore in 2021-22 through online advertisements, compared to Rs 3,212 crore that they rakes in a year ago.

So if a client decides to pause ads on Twitter what options does he have? How effective are these options?

The purpose of the campaign has a great role to play in channel selection, says Akhil Nair, CEO of Big Trunk Communications. “For a B2B client, LinkedIn might be a relevant option, while for a B2C client, platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook would be favorable. While Twitter has a great ‘affinity’ quality and reaches a wide audience, other platforms have have showcased their ability to decode and influence customer behaviour as well user acquisition.”

Twitter is primarily used for brand building and digital PR, not really for performance marketing and direct marketing, says Azaan Sait, founder of The Hub Bengaluru. For him, the two good alternatives are Koo, the made-in-India Twitter alternative with good reach in regional dialects, though it has a much smaller use base; and newsletters, whose recurring impressions build strong brand value, and today marketers have access to an array of software that allows them to create and send email newsletters at scale as well as manage subscribers and measure performance.

In any case, Twitter advertising is not yet a standalone option for clients. The preferred platforms have been Instagram for engagement and Facebook for revenue building. Instagram, for instance, offers Reels and IGTV (short for Instagram TV) which have proved highly effective in engaging users. After TikTok exited India, models like Youtube Shorts came into their own. For B2B brands, Linkedin has also emerged a key platform for engagement. “For Web3 brands we shifted focus to Instagram, Discord and Telegram,” says Shonell Thakker, co-founder & CEO, Diquery Digital.

For lifestyle, D2C brands Instagram and influencer-based marketing work best, say analysts. Youtube advertising has the kind of engagement that TV used to provide vis-a-vis print. And for services and b2b brands, podcasts, webinars and offline print advertising spaces continue to work. “In my opinion, OTT platforms, in-app advertisements, and influencer/content publisher’s native positioning of ads will continue to grow and will hold a much larger chunk in marketing budget in coming times,” says Shankar of Hashtags Orange.

That said, once the direction Twitter is looking to take is complete and stabilised, “we would recommend it as an important part of the social media mix,” says Sharma of Pulp Strategy.

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