Yes, Virginia, There Is a Twitter Self-Serve Ad Platform

Despite public denials from Twitter, a self-serve ad platform for running bid-based ad campaigns does indeed exist, according to people testing the system.

“Twitter is splitting hairs over the definition of what a self-serve platform is,” said Clix Marketing CEO David Szetela, who is testing the system in beta. He argued that the Twitter ad platform he’s been testing enables him to handle all aspects of a campaign without having to contact anyone at Twitter. The only human intervention he needs from Twitter, he said, is for someone to provide access to the platform.

“They’re saying it’s not self-serve because unlike [Google] AdWords, an advertiser cannot log in and create an account automatically,” Szetela said.

Yesterday, Twitter stated through its @twitterglobalpr account, “Reports that Twitter is testing a self-serve ad platform are inaccurate. We plan to test our self-serve ad product later this year.”

Szetela suggested Twitter is “hedging because they want to make sure they get a lot of user input and the system is capable of [operating] at scale,” he said. “I think Twitter is trying to say this isn’t really an event; this is just a step in the process that’s been taking a long time.”

Twitter first announced its self-serve ad platform plans in September.

According to what Szetela has observed since he began using the platform late last week, he said he is “seeing ads from advertisers that are big companies like Dell and small companies like software companies” running campaigns through the system. He said he was approached by Twitter to try the system, and asked to commit a set of clients to testing it. In addition to Szetela, one other advertiser confirmed use of the system with ClickZ News.

Szetela said he is able to create ads, bid on keywords, launch campaigns, and view campaign reports on his own through the system’s interface without assistance from Twitter staff. As for payments, the CEO said he is expecting Twitter to send an invoice at the end of every month; though he is not sure whether payments would be made that way when the system is accessible on a wider basis. Ads are currently displayed on search results pages on Twitter.com and in Twitter applications TweetDeck and HootSuite, according to Szetela.

Twitter’s denial that it is testing a self-serve ad platform, first reported in MediaPost on January 25, may be considered an attempt to control information being disseminated about the highly-anticipated system – a somewhat ironic approach considering that brands marketing through social media platforms like Twitter are bombarded with advice to cede control of their communications to consumers, rather than trying to manipulate the message.

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