Opinion: Why Twitter’s free ad offer isn’t enough for big brands

In the latest development to the Twitter/Elon Musk saga, Twitter is now offering brands free advertising in an attempt to lure them back and boost company revenue. The initiative will match advertisers’ ad spend of up to US$250,000 for ads that run before the end of February.

Veridooh cofounder, Mo Moubayed explains why Twitter’s free ad offer isn’t enough for big brands.


“This is a timely move from the company. A list of brands, such as Volkswagen, Apple, and Audi, have reportedly paused or reduced advertising on Twitter over brand safety concerns triggered by Musk’s takeover of the company.

While dangling free ads may attract some brands, it’s unlikely to impact those on a Twitter hiatus because their decision to leave the platform wasn’t about budgets but about protecting brands.

Twitter isn’t the only platform to have its revenue hit by an exodus of big brands. The tech sector has been battling multiple woes over the years. Whether it’s new owners and their erratic business decisions, data privacy concerns or issues around user-generated content – we’ve seen brands halt spending on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube … the list goes on.

So if free ad space isn’t going to make an impact, what will get marketers to spend again? That’s simple. Brands want all advertising platforms to offer certainty and security, and social media is no different. Here are the key lessons that this latest Twitter exodus has taught us about what marketers want.


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The right company

As a medium that runs on user-generated content, placing ads on social media includes the risk of appearing alongside content that is harmful or simply not right for your brand. Concerns around changes to content moderation on Twitter under Musk’s ownership are what prompted many brands to pause or reduce ads on the platform. These concerns weren’t without reason with the site seeing a surge in racist and hateful tweets since Musk stepped in, according to reports.

Marketers know that content and context are important. Traditional platforms provide premium content that has a positive flow-on effect for brands. For example, ads that appear in news brands are increasingly perceived as more “trustworthy” and high-quality by consumers, according to an industry study. Another study found that more than half of consumers consider out-of-home advertising (“OOH”) to be more trustworthy than online advertising. If consumers trust your brand, they’re more likely to purchase from your brand.

Targeting without compromising data privacy

The appeal of social media’s mountains of consumer data has quickly come undone. Microtargeting is not only losing its shine, for consumers and marketers alike, but it’s also becoming more difficult due to privacy laws and the phasing out of third-party cookies.

When Musk announced that Twitter would be relaxing its ban on political advertising, in an attempt to shore up revenue, it raised concerns about the potential to target small communities and create echo chambers. This is what prompted Twitter to ban political advertising back in 2019.

Marketers know that they can still gather valuable data and target consumers without compromising privacy. For example, data in OOH has come a long way with the boom of digital out-of-home advertising (“DOOH”). From audience segmentation to point-of-interest targeting, marketers can deliver clever creatives to boost ROI while protecting consumers’ privacy.

Real people, not bots

Bots and murky algorithms … understanding what’s happening behind the scenes on social media is complicated. Marketers want more certainty that they’re getting their ads in front of real people. Musk famously paused his acquisition of Twitter after claiming that 10% of its daily active users are inauthentic accounts. Musk is right that bots offer no value to advertisers and the social media landscape needs to be cleaned up.

Marketers are making verification the standard across all advertising and it will be interesting to see how transparency is strengthened online to boost trust with advertisers. After all, we saw the damage it could cause to brands when Twitter allowed people to purchase blue ticks without verifying who is behind the account.

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