Political Ads Come to Twitter, Romney Steps Up

  |  September 21, 2011   |  Comments

Twitter also poached Google's political ad man, Peter Greenberger.

Mitt Romney is likely to be the first advertiser to test Twitter's new ad offerings for political advertisers. Today, the campaign will launch a Promoted Tweet asking people to share an anti-Obama sentiment.

"We can't afford 4 more years of failed leadership RT & share if you agree," the tweet is expected to state, according to Romney's digital director, Zac Moffatt, who said the campaign is part of the Twitter ad pilot.


"@MittRomney is expanding the scale and amplification of his Twitter presence," he added via an email sent to ClickZ.

Romney for President and other presidential campaigns were briefed recently on Twitter's new ad products for political advertisers.

Twitter will not open its ad offerings to all political advertisers just yet. Rather, only presidential campaigns and national party committees are invited to try them. "We will expand the pilot to include other candidates and committees as we build up our political sales team," the company said in a statement sent to ClickZ.

The news about Twitter finally opening its doors to political advertisers was first reported this morning by Ben Smith in Politico.

Twitter has also poached Google's longtime top political ad man, Peter Greenberger. According to Greenberger's LinkedIn profile, he is now director of Washington sales at Twitter. Greenberger has been a fixture at political industry conferences for years, singing the praises of Google advertising, and helping Google to become a staple of online political campaigns. Surely Twitter hopes he will do the same for the short messaging service.

Greenberger will be based in Washington, D.C., and is charged with building a "dedicated political sales team," according to the company.

It remains to be seen how political advertisers will use paid Twitter offerings which include Promoted Trends, Promoted Tweets, and Promoted Accounts. While Google search advertising has become a standard means of driving online donations and signups, Twitter ads may be used for other purposes.

"We're chomping at the bit to use it for GOTV," said Jeff Jacobs, president and creative director at NextGen Persuasion, a democratic political consulting firm, referring to get-out-the-vote efforts that come in the final stages of the election season. "As a former campaign manager, I only care about technology as a means to winning. But given Twitter's user demographics and the decline of reachable landlines, this could be the biggest breakthrough for Democratic GOTV since the robocall. It's that big," he added.

"I could see people using Promoted Tweets including hot debate terms during a debate," suggested Eric Frenchman, chief Internet strategist at Republican digital firm Campaign Solutions. Picture a Twitter search on healthcare or social security turning up a paid tweet from a GOP rival calling out Romney or Rick Perry on issues they’ve been linked to negatively.

"I will have clients running political ads on Twitter," continued Frenchman, noting, "I think that it's a very powerful ad format for politics."

Frenchman said he likes the Promoted Tweets offering, which displays a paid tweet at the top of search results, especially interesting because it enables an advertiser message to remain constant at the top of results; or in the case of Promoted Tweets to Followers, the paid tweet stays atop a follower's feed. "It helps with branding and messaging.... It helps manage the conversation," he said.

Political advertisers have been left out in the cold by Twitter since the firm launched its ad products. During the 2010 midterms elections, Twitter would not accept political advertisers, though some wanted to try the system. "We only have a limited group of brands currently using and testing the platform," a Twitter spokesperson told ClickZ a year ago.

Political ads will include a new purple "Promoted" symbol, according to Twitter. Campaigns will be able to include a full, FEC-compliant disclaimer that appears when users rollover Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends, or Promoted Accounts.

Update: This story was updated after original publication to include statements from Twitter.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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