WPP CEO Martin Sorrell called out Twitter’s revenue potential – along with the social platform’s positioning amid Google and Facebook’s ad dominance – in an interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey onstage at Dmexco in Germany on Wednesday.
“Twitter does not seem to have achieved the prominence Twitter [and the industry] would want,” Sorrell said. “Why is that? Is it too clunky? What’s your view on why you haven’t achieved as much as people would like you to achieve?”
WPP has spent about $300 million on Twitter in 2017, compared to about $2.3 billion on Facebook and $5.5 billion on Google.
Sorrell said WPP and GroupM’s agencies would welcome a third scaled social platform to balance out media spend going to the duopoly, but Twitter needs to entice advertisers to keep investing there.
“Our clients would like to balance out the digital ecosystem because Google and Facebook, according to most pundits, accounts for about 75% of digital advertising spend,” he said.
Here are highlights of Dorsey's answers to Sorrell's questions:
Time spent per user is strong, but can Twitter grow its active users?
Jack Dorsey: We may be a smaller base comparative to other platforms, but we’re an open platform. When you tweet, it’s often distributed to a third-party site, a billboard, TV, and that’s extremely powerful.
It opens up a tweet for the world to see. Our platform is about the power of the zeitgeist we have – where you can see what people actually think and feel about what you announced or your policies. It’s not just about absolute numbers. The conversation on Twitter is alive and electric and you can’t find it anywhere else.
What Twitter’s done right (and wrong).
We have some of the most influential people in the world that we’re serving with text, images, live streams, video. What we haven’t done a good job [with], from a product perspective, is [connecting people with the] right accounts that might be tweeting about their interests. It doesn’t matter if it’s text, articles or images. We’ve been spending a lot of time with data science and machine learning to make Twitter more relevant. We’ve found when we understand the context [that tweets are in], that engagement goes up.
Our brand awareness is unlike any other company in the world. Over 11 years, we’ve achieved a lot. Has it always been as focused or simple as we needed it to be? As streamlined? No. We’ve been doing that work over the last few years. We’re focused on providing daily utility for people … and that continues to accelerate.
Twitter continues to lose money, so will it add a subscription model or double down on advertising?
We have a really strong business in advertising, but realize it’s been a little too complicated for advertisers to use. You [Sorrell] described it as clunky. We can certainly focus more and make it better for customers and we’re building technology to make sure we can deliver on our promise.
With Amazon securing streaming rights for NFL Thursday night football, what’s the impact on Twitter?
We need to focus on our strength, which is conversation – what people are thinking and feeling when watching an event, be it politics, sports or entertainment. In cases where we can stream content live through our app, it’s awesome and necessary, but even in [cases like the] NFL that’s streamed to Amazon, that conversation around the live event still happens on Twitter regardless. It’s how the platform was designed. It’s why we created a live strategy in the first place.
Whether he thinks President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter usurped traditional media.
Every voice on Twitter is valuable. Donald Trump has been on the platform since 2012 and he has been consistent in his usage since 2012. He didn’t change his use of the platform when he became president.
I do think it’s important we hear directly from our leaders. It’s important we have that in the open, even if we don’t agree with what is said. If we don’t, we can’t effectively acknowledge the problems we have in civilization.
Interview lightly edited for clarity and length.