Twitter ads used for trolling timelines : Weev promotes white supremacy tweets

Adland: 

Twitter has growing pains in the ad department, and ironically tweets made twitter stock plummet. When each twitter feed of brand or celebrity (verified for $15,000 or not) was seen as an advertising channel already, making brands buy to be seen more, was going against what brands had already learned about the media. Advertising in social has cut its teeth on going viral by retweets, not on buying placements in feeds. It is a bit like when Facebook introduced promoted posts, and GM decided to leave the platform taking their $10 million with them. The social media kool-aid is a bunch of numbers hard to quantify, a lot of flameouts over names like Juan, sombreros, and Belvedere vodka's use of a comedy skit with a line about going down easy. Away from advertising there's feminism's toxic twitter wars, and Slate points out how twitter rewards trolling and conflict over discourse. The supplement brand Protein World turned trolling into a social media strategy, which paid off. Desperate for cash, Twitter now grabs at straws, blames marketers' 'Reluctance To Buy New Kind Of Ad'. Like David Auerbach at Slate says, Twitter is at the Crossroads right now.

In these tumultuous twitter times, enter Andrew Auernheimer. Also known as @rabite on twitter, but famous by the handle Weev, he is a grey hat hacker & famed internet troll who did prison time for exposing a flaw in AT&T security, and now proudly proclaims himself a white supremacist, "coming out" as such complete with Swastika tattoos in an article published in the Daily Stormer in Oct 2014. Weev now lives in Lebanon as it has no extradition treaty to the US, and people are still debating whether the white supremacy persona is an elaborate troll, considering he has stated he has jewish ancestry before. Weev invested in some twitter ads to promote his tweets and targeted the people who really don't like him and his ideas in particular. With this he exposed the fact that promoted tweets bypass all kinds of twitter blocks & mutes. The responses were overwhelmingly negative and soon people complained directly to twitter for allowing anyone to buy a promoted tweet.

The battle of commercial speech also being free speech has thus reached Twitter. When a judge ruled that "these ads — offensive as they may be — are still entitled to First Amendment protection" about The American Freedom Defense Initiative ads, the MTA responded by banning all 'political ads' within their network. A week later the AFDI was in the news again, now as the target of the Garland Texas shooting.

"Viral" has become advertisings new cocaine, when things spread worldwide fast, not because they're good, but because they're provocative. We aren't really targeting our potential consumers with our messages shotgunning for higher view numbers like that. When Karen seeking the baby's father was promoting tourism the 'earned media' was spectacular, but did anyone want to visit Denmark? What appeals to one target confuses - or worse, offends - another. The web promised us the holy grail of individually targeted ads, while Social Media is repeating the 90s mistakes of thinking large numbers = success. I've said it before, just because teenagers in Latvia are laughing at your ad doesn't mean you've moved units with your target in the UK. And by far the easiest way to get noticed today is to add to the outrage machine on Twitter.

Previously we had a problem with scam ads getting all the media attention. Wheaton said scam ads hurt both brands and agencies, which is true - but I also see a problem in how a worldwide audience receives and protests ads that aren't actually running in their market. Protests in the United States had ads in the UK pulled because they were interpreted as homophobic. Similarly KFC in Australia had to pull an ad interpreted as racist by people in the United States. Within your own market & target the rule is if your ad is hated by writers at Jezebel you pretty much have to pull the campaign instantly.

Twitter had a moment where it seemed you could target exactly the right people to see your ad at exactly the right time. Finally, advertising would be information to the viewer. But as Twitter's ads system has rolled out to more countries, it seems it works better to target your way past the ever increasing block lists people have erected to escape the notorious twitter harassment problem than as a targeted media. I don't know about you, but I mainly see a UK preppy mens clothing brand promoted to my feed, and I don't dress any men. The holy grail of properly targeted internet advertising eludes us once again.


Update: Twitter has removed one of Weev's promoted tweets, citing that "hate, sensitive topics and violence" are not allowed in Twitter campaigns, pointing to their support statement: "Twitter prohibits the promotion of hate content, sensitive topics, and violence globally.".

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

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