Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Twitter's Sharknado Frenzy and the Future of Advertising

Everything you need to know about Twitter's promise and pitfalls can be summed up by Sharknado. Here's an excerpt from a piece I wrote for MoneyBeat last week, a discussion of the campy SyFy movie "Sharknado," Twitter, and advertising, with Mark O'Brien, the head of DDB Worldwide's North American business.

I loved "Sharknado," by the way, and I really did think it illustrated something key to Twitter's future. Was waiting for a few months to find a good way to get it into a story.
Nothing illustrates the value TwitterTWTR +2.41% offers to advertisers, and the problems with Twitter for advertisers, quite like “Sharknado.” 
The SyFy channel airs scores of low-budget, cornball movies. Most of them, with names like “Dinocroc vs. Supergator” and  ”Mega Python vs. Gatoroid,” come and go quietly, even if they happen to star the occasional B- or C-list actor (the latter, in fact, featured both Debbie Gibson and Tiffany). But the network scored an unlikely hit this past summer with “Sharknado.” The Twitterati turned this low-budget piece of camp it into a brief, viral pop-culture feeding frenzy (yes, we were enthusiastically tweeting during it, too), and a ratings hit for SyFy. 
“It was a hilarious phenomenon,” said Mark O’Brien, president of the big ad agency DDB North America, and an early proponent of interactive platforms at the firm. “Think of the viewership, for what was one of the worst produced shows ever.” 
That viewership came almost wholly from the buzz on Twitter, and that little frenzy is exactly what advertisers are looking for, Mr. O’Brien said, which is simply the ability to capture the viewer’s attention. Any company advertising during Sharknado hit on a mini-windfall. 
But that kind of buzz so far hasn’t translated into profits for Twitter.

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