Unlike Twitter’s likely new owner and its many cofounders, Parag Agrawal, the new CEO, tweets only occasionally. But he did so last week, seeking to reassure a key group of Twitter stakeholders—advertisers, who contribute the lifeblood of company revenue—that the party was still on.
Agrawal was referring to Twitter’s presentation at the annual New Front meetings in New York, where media companies like Twitter host presentations for advertisers outlining their plans for new products and their priorities for the rest of the year. And with that new owner, Elon Musk, having cast doubt on Twitter’s ad-driven business model during his $44 billion proposal to buy the company, the gathering assumed greater importance than it ordinarily might, a chance for Twitter executives to bolster advertiser confidence.
Twitter hosted the event at Pier 17 Lower Manhattan on Wednesday. This glassy area overlooks the East River, Brooklyn Skyline, and Lady Liberty in the distance. This is a great opportunity for host companies to wow advertisers and steal their marketing budget dollars.
“It has been a quiet month at Twitter, so there is no better time for all of us to get together,” JP Maheu, Twitter’s head of global client solutions, told the crowd, commencing the evening.
The Twitter event, the planning for which began several months ago, included a half-dozen, museum-like stations showcasing Twitter’s role in global culture. There was a mock Olympics podium—Twitter had a lucrative deal with NBC to broadcast behind-the-scenes content from the Tokyo Summer Games and the Beijing Winter Games—and a hexagon-shaped, touchscreen-filled room showcasing Twitter’s relationship with video games, an industry with ever more advertising money to spend. Then there was Closeby, a section of plush blue carpet devoted to Twitter’s intersection with the entertainment world. (Why go with the classic—and predictable—choice of a red carpet when you’re Twitter and blue’s been your color for 16 years?) You could enjoy burgers and bao bars along with open bars and DJs to add some spice and fun.
Twitter’s standing in culture is unmatched for its size, but much has been said, including by Musk, that its cultural cachet outweighs its business success. Twitter recently tried to find a more balanced approach, increasing revenue by 47% in just two years to $5.1 Billion in 2021. On Wednesday, it detailed new partnerships with Fox Sports around soccer’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a slate of programming similar to the NBC-Olympics deal. What is that World Cup programming? It was attended by all sponsorable advertisers! The event also featured content deals. Essence magazine, Diddy’s Revolt media and the WNBA (sponsorable!The diversity Twitter strives to foster is evident in the addition of these products. Social shopping is a new category of advertising that combines social media and ecommerce. Leading the presentation was Sarah Personette, Twitter’s chief customer officer. “I hope that you see that we are going to continue to invest in the parts of our business that bring scroll-stopping content to the time line,” she said.
In reassuring advertisers, Twitter works to secure both its short-term future as Musk’s $44 billion buyout winds to completion, as well as its longer-term one. Musk may not want to acknowledge it, but the hard work done last night on Thursday will improve his life. His takeover will make Twitter’s financial situation precarious, adding $12.5 billion in debt, and Twitter needs its core advertising business to remain intact to keep things going. The financial arithmetic doesn’t work without it, even as Musk considers additional revenue streams. He mentioned this earlier in the week. suggestedAccess to Twitter could be required for governments and companies. For now advertisers are not inclined to hurry for what is available, and prefer to wait for a Musk-run twitter.
“We want to stick with them. It’s Twitter,” shrugged one executive from a multi-billion-dollar brand last night, fizzing drink with lime in hand. You could see the Blue Carpet and the Olympics podium from there, reinforcing the person’s point: Twitter is an essential place for conversation about global occurrences. “Who knows what’s going to happen—who knows what Musk wants? Do Please enter your email address What do you think Musk would like? He does seem very good at getting headlines.” Another executive standing nearby nodded in agreement.
One of Twitter’s longest-serving hands was there, TJ Adeshola, the head of its content partnerships. TJ Adeshola insisted that Musk’s visit had not affected his presentation regarding Fox and the other deals. “It’s been business as usual,” he said. “The Met Gala, the NBA playoffs. We have a real-time superpower,” emphasizing the sense that Twitter offers users and advertisers an immediacy and intimacy to an event unmatched by traditional media. Recently, “the time line has been full of rich content.” Indeed, it sure has.