Inside X’s latest, desperate attempt to beguile advertisers

If X has its way, 2024 will be the year it hits the long, twisted trail back to advertiser land.

Sure, marketers have heard this song before, especially since the social network fell into the eccentric billionaire Elon Musk’s lap about 18 months ago. And yes, the chances of advertisers changing their minds over advertising there are slim to none.

But, with a slew of new moves like hiring sprees, schmoozing with creators and media personalities, dangling payment talks, tossing in some fresh features, and beefing up its ad safety, maybe — just maybe — X’s ad sales execs will manage to raise an eyebrow or two.

Until recently, this plan appeared more like random musings — a tweet here, a partnership there. But recent months have seen it morph into a more fleshed-out strategy, according to a pitch deck Digiday obtained. In it, X’s ad sales team tout AI-powered search, peer-to-peer payments, premium content as well as enhanced performance — though X did not divulge specific timelines in the deck. 

Clearly, not all these moves are aimed at advertisers. In fact, many of them are focused on the platform’s user base, giving existing ones more reasons to spend more time there and new ones more reasons to sign up for it. Still, the fact they’re being flagged to advertisers now shows that X knows it has to find ways to make it harder for advertisers to say no to advertising there. And if there’s one thing advertisers can’t ignore, it’s reach.

Here’s a breakdown of X’s plans for the remainder of this year:

The numbers

When it comes to users, X has seen a 55% average increase in mobile daily sign-ups within the last six months, while it boasts 10 billion monthly site visits, according to internal data referenced in an April newsletter to agencies distributed by the platform, and seen by Digiday. And for brands, X claims it has seen a 63% increase in brand likes, 20% increase in brand re-posts and a 14% increase in brand impressions in the same time period, according to the newsletter.

Video

Video is set to be the backbone of X’s play for more ad dollars moving forward. CEO Linda Yaccarino said so herself, last month. At the time, she quote-posted X’s own data, which stated that four out of every five sessions on the app now include watching video. Not only that, but video views are growing at an average rate of 35% year over year, while the average time spent on video has increased by 17%, according to that post.

That message comes through loud and clear in the pitch deck. When comparing video views year-over-year between 2022 to 2023, the deck stated that content from the NBA saw a 105% increase, New York Fashion Week saw a 199% increase and college football saw a 249% increase in views, while the Grammy’s saw a 56% increase.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, a period brimming with sporting events, the deck highlighted key events including the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix (May 17), UEFA Euro 2024 (starting June 14) as well as the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games (kick off on July 26), among others, as upcoming partnership opportunities. X is trying to reassert its credentials as the go-to destination for experiencing major events alongside others.

Talent

Like so many of its counterparts, X has made a beeline for creators — or at least it’s going to try. The more creator content it can aggregate on the platform the more attention it should theoretically be able to monetize. There have been flashes of this over the last year or so with X tempting creators with ad-sharing payouts alongside big deals for high-profile media personalities to stream their shows to the app.

Whether creators will reciprocate the platform’s enthusiasm remains to be seen. Recent events cast some doubt on this. For example, the platform’s partnership with Don Lemon, former CNN anchor, came to an abrupt end last month following an interview he did with Musk. Additionally, an experiment conducted by popular creator MrBeast appeared to be marred by the fact that the video was repeatedly pushed into users’ feeds without clear labeling, causing confusion and potentially compromising its effectiveness as an advertisement.

But let’s not write off the plan just yet. X still boasts partnerships with figures like Tulsi Gabbard, former Democratic presidential candidate, and Jim Rome, the sports talk radio host, as of the time of writing.

Upcoming developments could add to those. The platform plans to incorporate creator sponsorships that align with premium video, according to the deck. Details on how those sponsorships will work and be valued were not included in the deck.

“One product that has been discussed would allow advertisers to curate a list of creator talent and promoted video ads would run as a placement on the creators’ profile,” said one ad exec, who exchanged anonymity for candor. “Though it doesn’t seem like it would have a ton of scale.”

Another example X is pushing, which aims to enable advertisers to capitalize off of a creator’s reach, is Mr Beast. From Q2 2024, brands have the opportunity to align their pre-roll ads with the influencer’s content on X, and serve ads directly on his X profile, according to the April newsletter.

Why would this matter? According to the newsletter, Mr Beast records 12 million impressions and one million video views per day, while his audience skews young: 54% are younger than 24, while a further 29%, according to the document, are aged between 25 to 34 — meaning Mr Beast’s audience straddles the two key audiences marketers target: Gen Z predominantly, but also millennials.

E-commerce

Given the push for social commerce, and Musk’s push for the platform to become what he has called the “everything app” expect the platform’s integration with Shopify from earlier this year to play a big part of that.

While there has been no official confirmation yet about how this will work, the likelihood is that data will be relayed back to the X ads delivery system when a user they have served an ad to reaches the Shopify sales confirmation page. So rather than relying on a conversion pixel, or a custom server-to-server integration (such as CAPi), Shopify would facilitate that data.

“The integration would be beneficial for both measurement and to improve targeting,” said the ad exec.

Programmatic

Programmatic advertising remains a crucial component in X’s strategy to sustain ad revenue flow. Last year, it inked deals with InMobi and Google to expand the availability of its ad inventory beyond its proprietary ad manager. However, progress on this front has been gradual. Initial testing for X’s programmatic buying was conducted in the APAC region in October, with global expansion slated for the first quarter of 2024, according to an ad executive who Digiday granted anonymity for candor. “That timeframe has come and gone, and we’ve received no further updates regarding availability,” they stated.

https://digiday.com/?p=541600

More in Marketing

Ikea launched an AI assistant earlier this year. Has it actually driven sales?

Three months on, the retailer’s data chief explains how it’s measuring the impact of its AI assistant.

The header image features an illustration of a woman holding up a circular product in a social media post.

Marketing Briefing: Brands collaborate on influencer marketing with an eye on ‘community infiltration,’ finding fee savings

Marketers are increasingly recognizing the benefit of collaborating with other brands on influencer marketing efforts and are anecdotally more keen to do so this year, according to five influencer marketing executives.

Making sense of the allegations and defenses in the Colossus ad tech controversy

What seemed like a clear case of an ad tech vendor being shady is actually a lot more layered.