Twit­ter, YouTube work on stealth ad­ver­tis­ing

The China Post - - LIFE - BY TU­PAC POINTU

The quandary for those who run so­cial net­works is how to mon­e­tize ac­tiv­ity on them with­out an­tag­o­niz­ing and thus los­ing users through dis­tract­ing ads?

The an­swer, for Twit­ter, YouTube and Instagram, is to slip in some stealthy ads cam­ou­flaged to look like posts from listed con­tacts.

Each of the net­works has in-house teams whose job is to think up ways to ad­vise brands on how to sneak their mar­ket­ing into mem­bers’ feeds.

At YouTube, owned by Google, the ef­fort is called “Zoo.” Instagram uses the “Cre­ative Shop” of its par- ent com­pany Face­book. Twit­ter’s name for it is the rel­a­tively straight­for­ward “Brand Strat­egy.”

The strate­gies adapt to the spe­cific re­quire­ments, for­mats and be­hav­ior on each of the so­cial net­works.

Hid­ing in Plain Sight

In the case of Instagram, the 4-year-old site which boasts 300 mil­lion users world­wide who share fil­tered pho­tos and videos, the ad­ver­tis­ing push has now ex­tended to France.

The net­work long re­sisted in­tro­duc­ing spon­sored mes­sages, aware that many of its fans were cre­ative types — artists, pho­tog­ra­phers, ar- chi­tects — against hav­ing screens of pure images cor­rupted by tawdry com­mer­cial in­tru­sions.

But af­ter Face­book bought it for US$715 mil­lion in 2012, Instagram started putting in ads. They started in 2013 in the United States, then Australia and Canada in late 2014 and, from mid-March this year, in France.

They hide in plain sight: pre­sented in the same square for­mat, with the same “vin­tage” fil­ter as user­gen­er­ated pic­tures. Only the men­tion “spon­sored” re­veals that it’s there to sell, not share.

The spe­cial­ist teams are ex­pe­ri­enced, well-versed in ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing, of­ten hav­ing been snapped up from ad agen­cies. Each count around 100 em­ploy­ees, scat­tered around the planet. The job re­quire­ment is to have a deep and nu­anced knowl­edge of lo­cal mar­kets and to stay abreast of the lat­est trends.

“There are no bor­ders. It’s a global team that com­mu­ni­cates from ev­ery­where in the world, 24/7. If you want to know what’s hap­pen­ing with mo­biles in Asia in such and such an area, we can get an an­swer in an hour,” said Mailine Swildens, direc­tor of YouTube’s Zoo for south­ern and eastern Europe, the Mid­dle East and Africa.

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