Signal April Fools Edition: Twitter’s No Joke

Twitter’s Dick Costolo talks to Bloomberg about building a “global town square.”

In today’s Signal: Dick Costolo on building the global town square; Facebook introduces FBX-targeted ads in News Feed; ad model suggestions that might end the cookie-blocking privacy debate; brands dabbling in the VC space; “Borrowed Interest” as a popular ad tactic; Google’s latest warning to publishers; brands use divisive issues to build relationships; advertising clients aren’t feeling any love from Yahoo; Buzzfeed and Sharethrough reignite the custom content vs. scale debate; and more.

To the links …

Twitter’s Costolo: User Growth Drives Everything (Video) (Bloomberg) Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is, in his own words, “building the global town square.” In this interview with Bloomberg TV, he talks about his desire to reach everyone on the planet and how everything Twitter does is derived from that goal. When asked about how competitors’ moves affect his decisions, he answered, “We have a really clear notion of where we want to go as a company and with the product. … We don’t let other companies’ decisions affect the way we think about where we’re going.” He also discusses his birthday wish for Twitter.

Report: Twitter Ad Revenue to Hit Nearly $1 Billion Next Year (Mashable) According to a new estimate from eMarketer, Twitter’s global ad revenue is expected to hit nearly $1 billion in 2014. According to the report, “the upward revision comes as advertisers have shown more interest in spending money on mobile advertisements on Twitter, and as recent audience figures from multiple research sources analyzed by eMarketer have suggested Twitter’s reach is improving.” eMarketer also attributes some of the increase to the launch of Twitter’s API.

Facebook’s News Feed Ads: Now Real-Time Biddable (Ad Exchanger) Last fall, Facebook introduced Facebook Exchange (FBX), a way for businesses to show ads to people on the social site based on their browsing interests. Last week, the company launched a small alpha test to introduce FBX-targeted ads in News Feed. This move suggests that FBX has become a significant revenue driver for the company. In addition, by supporting FBX in the News Feed, Facebook could be laying the groundwork for an expansion of its real-time bidding sales strategy into mobile.

All You Can Eat (And Other Real Solutions To The Online Privacy Fiasco) (AdExchanger) Jay Friedman, COO at Goodway Group, discusses the cookie-blocking privacy debate. He wants advertisers to continue providing relevant, non-intrusive ads to consumers, and offers three models that address the current problems, hoping that the Interactive Advertising Bureau can take one of his solutions — whichever one the industry as a whole decides is best — and make it a standard for everyone.

Should Brands Act Like VCs? (Digiday) American Express, Walmart and Coke have all made investments in several startups. Because digital technology is changing their businesses, they’re investing in companies that might give them new ways of doing business or reaching consumers. Digiday’s Giselle Abramovich takes a look at whether dabbling in the VC space is right for brands, especially given the recent rumors that Best Buy will be shutting down its VC unit, Best Buy Capital.

Ads That Speak the Language of Social Media (NYT) “Borrowed Interest” is the term used to describe the tactic by which brands seek to associate themselves with elements of popular culture that are familiar to the everyman. Case in point: Social media’s new starring role in product pitches. Examples include ads for Snickers Peanut Butter Squared candy, sold by Mars, that depict the word “like”; and ads for the cosmetics retailer Sephora, addressed to “a busy networker,” that promote beauty creams as “your new must-have status update: They prime, hydrate, treat, protect and perfect.”

As News Publications Experiment With Sponsored Content, Google Says Keep It Out Of Google News (Search Engine Land) Last Wednesday, Google issued a warning to publishers that they should keep sponsored content — namely affiliate, promotional, advertorial, or marketing materials — out of Google News. “Google’s chief concern with affiliate links,” writes Danny Sullivan, “has been whether they are used as a way to push paid links to build rankings, given links are effectively used as votes by Google.” He added, “I don’t think publishers need to worry if they have affiliate links from major, recognized programs in their news stories … [but] if someone creates content lacking any real news value, affiliate links or not, that will be an issue for Google News.”

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Should Brands Take Stances on Social Issues? (Digiday) Unless you were totally disconnected from the Web last week, you probably noticed that Bud Light and other brands took to social media to support marriage equality. Brands obviously want to build relationships with consumers in social media, but should they be taking a stand on a divisive social issue? Matt Rednor, chief strategy and innovation officer of MRY, weighs in: “It’s all about the brand’s tolerance for risk and what they stand for overall. Entering a polarizing debate will certainly get a brand talked about but invites both positive and negative conversation. So, if a brand wants that, then they better have their response and crisis management strategy in place.”

Yahoo: Ad Agencies Frustrated Waiting for Vision (Ad Age) Yahoo’s advertising clients are growing tired of waiting for both attention and insight into Marissa Mayer’s vision. One senior agency executive told Ad Age, “I don’t know what their strategy is, but if it includes agencies then they are going to have to fix what they currently have.” The same executive said that Mayer and COO Henrique De Castro have made it clear they have little interest in building relationships with media agencies. However, there are some executives who think the company’s approach is refreshing. Jeff Lanctot, Chief Media Officer at Razorfish, believes that if Yahoo can win over entrepreneurs, it will help drive innovation. “If they innovate, that will help win over consumers,” he said. “You know what agencies flock to? Innovative companies that consumers flock to.”

BuzzFeed, Sharethrough Battle to Bring Native Ads to the Masses (Ad Age) Buzzfeed and Sharethrough have reignited the custom content vs. scale debate. Buzzfeed is starting to sell to agencies its own version of an ad network to get more scale for its “native-advertising” posts. Sharethrough, on the other hand, is focusing solely on the distribution of branded content across publisher sites of all sizes, and betting that enough marketers crave more scale out of native ads. BTW, FMP’s been doing this for years. Welcome to the party, guys!

This Woman Is Keeping Online Ad Companies on Their Toes (Adweek) Genie Barton directs the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ online behavioral advertising and mobile marketing initiatives. In that role, she enforces the Digital Advertising Alliance’s AdChoices program, which requires brands to place a small, triangular blue icon on their ads. When consumers click on the icon, they are sent to a website where they can opt out of targeted ads. Barton spoke to Adweek’s Katy Bachman about privacy and ad targeting, and also offered her thoughts on the lawmakers who insist advertisers can’t police themselves.

Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes Talks About Marketing to Marketers (Ad Exchanger) AdExchanger sat down with Adobe’s Ann Lewnes to find out what her biggest challenges are as a CMO, what the future role of the CMO will be, and the current challenges of digital marketing.One of the challenges that we face, as an industry,” she said, “is that marketers and agencies have been too slow to make this change [to digital marketing]. The marketers and the agencies that don’t do it will suffer. I’m not speaking as an Adobe representative or someone who’s trying to sell something; I’m speaking just as a representative of change in this industry.”