With real-time ads, Google moves in on Twitter's Super Bowl advantage

Twitter is getting rushed on all sides this Super Bowl with rivals challenging its real-time, live marketing business — and now it has Google competing more aggressively for ad dollars during major events.

Google announced this morning that it’s launched what it’s calling “real time ads,” which let advertisers serve video ads across YouTube and 2 million partner websites during big moments. Google, has brands like Wix on board for the Super Bowl, and Comcast signed up to use it during the Academy Awards.

Google’s new ads are an outgrowth of a program it beta tested last year with EA Sports’ Madden NFL 15, where the brand used technology to build display ads on the fly and target them quickly. Now, they are being used during the big game and awards, which are Twitter’s sweet spot, and a threat to its core competency.

“From a revenue and ad buying perspective, this absolutely is a good competitive product that Google just put out there,” said Clemens Brandt, director of digital operations at BBDO.

Indeed, live messaging is the cornerstone of returning Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s strategy. Since Dorsey returned in the fall, he has been emphasizing the live communication power of the platform as a way to win advertisers and give consumers a simple reason to log on.

“Dorsey is focused on real-time versus throwing out all sorts of products that don’t perform,” said Chris Tuff, evp and director of business development and partnerships at 22squared.

The National Football League is a major partner and lets Twitter sell video ads against highlights from games that it posts on the site, which is part of an important program called Amplify.

Twitter also bought Periscope, the live streaming app, and its videos now play directly in the Twitter stream.

All these products, and the nature of Twitter itself, still give the service a real-time advantage — for now — according to Brandt.

“Twitter can target people specifically interested in the event, the Super Bowl, the Oscars,” Brandt said. “Because people are writing about it and using hashtags, they’re easy to identify more precisely.”

But even there, Facebook began challenging Twitter last year, allowing advertisers to target ads based on football fans discussing the game. Facebook launched the football targeting fully this year, enabling it all season.

Twitter does have an advantage because of the focus the company put on real time from scratch, according to Stephen Blake, svp of social at Kinetic Social, an ad buying and technology company. “Twitter has done lot of work to make the platform work in real time and optimize for real time,” Blake said.

While places like YouTube and Facebook are dabbling in the live events marketing, it’s a pillar of Twitter’s moneymaking strategy. The live events are when Twitter advertisers perform at their best, Blake said. Consumers click on a given Twitter ad about 3 percent of the time on regular days but about 20 percent of the time during special events, Blake said.

One knock marketers have is with Twitter’s reach, however. It has 320 million monthly users, and Facebook has more than a billion a day. That’s why Twitter is maximizing its reach beyond people who just have accounts, and tweets reach 820 million people a month including logged out users.

Google couldn’t help but mention its footprint when it comes to Internet advertising when announcing its real time ads. The reach and scale of Google’s ad platform are “relatively incomparable,” said Tara Walpart Levy, head of agency sales at the search giant.