I’m torn on this issue. On one hand seeing a Wendy’s Flatbread tweet while watching tweets about the tragedy was unnerving; it shouldn’t have been uncalled for. After all, we don’t call for no commercials on news networks while watching the same coverage on TV. Even though we may not want the commercials because we want to keep watching as news breaks out to continue the connection that we have to the situation.
The basic fact is that news outlets, sources, and platforms require cash to operate. The 24 hour news networks aren’t able to continue running purely because people watch them. The same fact applies to social platforms like Twitter. They added their inline advertisements as an alternative to the typical sidebar advertising that other sites had done. I actually feel like it’s the least intrusive than other forms of advertising since they always sit at the top (with the exception of mobile which inserts them as you refresh the feed). Facebook’s in-timeline advertising follows the timeline and you’ll see them inserted throughout your scrolling to stay with the timeline.
Would the reaction to these ads be different if Twitter used sidebar advertising? Very likely. The use of timeline ads inserts those messages into the conversation (intended) which makes them more personal.
What Can Twitter Do?
My first thought yesterday after hearing back from Wendy’s was that Twitter could offer a great service to it’s advertisers by disabling or auto-disabling advertisements on related searches when situations like these happen. They already give advertisers the power to pause their ads immediately so they don’t show up, but that’s a really broad kill-switch since it will likely stop those ads from showing up in any other keywords that they have been set to cover.
Companies will likely continue pulling their ads from sites during situations like the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. The line between happenstance and taking advantage is a thin one that I think the majority of companies advertising will continue to smartly stay away from. Even tweets with condolence in mind are usually taken the wrong way with readers as a way to push the brand. Wendy’s smartly didn’t say anything in that regard. Their last tweet (as of writing) was earlier in the day. The tweet I replied to was actually posted on April 10th.
The eventuality was that the Red Cross ended up with the top spot for advertising on the Boston Marathon search among others. This is fitting. That’s how it should be. It falls back on Twitter to help companies with these situations. This will only help their bottom line as well as their advertisers’.