- WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell spoke for nearly an hour with Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey about the micro-blogging platform’s legacy and future at the DMEXCO conference in Cologne, Germany, on Thursday.
Sorrell and WPP first invested around $150 million in Twitter two years ago and is projecting to invest $350 million in 2016, according to Sorrell; the ad conglomerate has a global portfolio of about $75 billion.
WPP’s steady spend on Twitter comes despite the platform’s recent stagnating user base, slowed ad revenue growth and public controversies over things like targeted user abuse. In August, eMarketer predicted that Twitter user growth would be just 2% in 2016, down from earlier estimates of 8%.
Dorsey emphasized old and new when assessing the state of Twitter for Sorrell and a large DMEXCO audience, stating that the platform’s best qualities have remained the same since its launch a decade ago while also solidifying plans to diversify further into video with apps on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and others. The talk comes at a time when Twitter is in need of a makeover following a sluggish financial year and the rise in prominence of social competitors like Snapchat.
Dorsey joined Sorrell remotely from San Francisco on the night of Twitter’s first NFL live stream, part of a new 10 game package deal that aims to reposition Twitter as a more socially engaged alternative to linear TV. Dorsey planned to be at DMEXCO in person but cancelled last minute “for reasons unknown,” according to Sorrell.
Sorrell highlighted the brand’s failings to the DMEXCO audience, but he and his company’s continued, growing investment in the service – and the openness to having such a public forum with Dorsey – suggests an assuredness in Twitter’s reinvention being a success.
“We’ve doubled our spend on Twitter as a group on behalf of our clients,” Sorrell said. “That shows a significant degree of confidence in Twitter, but there’s a lot of controversy [...] frankly, it’s not profitable – it loses money, and has done for a number years – and it hasn’t been able to monetize effectively.”
Pressed by Sorrell on why such a situation is the case, Dorsey kept things vague, stating that Twitter is “building an interesting and also big business.” That big business building has been ongoing since 2006 – a time, Dorsey pointed out, before the iPhone – but he also noted that the process has lead Twitter to innovate in the marketing space with “new ad formats for digital and, specifically, mobile.”
“We’ve been working with our partners and with our advertising partners to continue to figure out how to speak in this new world and to speak in a way that’s relevant to the audience,” Dorsey said. “We’re busy right now making sure that we’re investing in better technology so that advertisers spend less time on the system and more time focused on their campaigns and their customers.”
Dorsey was overall light on details – notably in regards to possible acquisitions of the company – and stated that Twitter’s new core focuses are things like simplifying user experience and taking a “more disciplined approach” to abuse, without laying out specifics on how or when these changes will be implemented. Given his company’s ongoing financial troubles and who he was speaking to, such hesitance to disclose information is understandable, though Dorsey may be less cagey going forward since that much-hyped NFL stream was a hit.