Will Twitter’s ad ban shift the spotlight to influencers in the political scene?

According to most industry heads, the decision is due to backlash social media platforms have been facing for propagating political agenda & not because they are not interested in advertising dollars

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Nov 1, 2019 9:38 AM

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s announcement to ban all political ads globally on the social media platform has led to varied discussions both in the political and advertising spectrums.

While Twitter’s move has received deeply divided reactions in the West, Indian industry leaders have stuck to the stance that the announcement will not cause too much of a ripple in the domestic ad scenario. According to most industry heads, the decision is an answer to the backlash social media platforms have been facing for propagating political agenda and not because they are not interested in the advertising dollars. Several experts were also of the opinion that despite the ban, Twitter would continue to be a politically charged space and the role of influencers will now assume importance on that front.

Ashish Bhasin, CEO, APAC and Chairman India, Dentsu Aegis Network, said, “I think the social media platforms have become very aware of what taking political stances does to their image, because there has been a vocal public backlash in several cases, not just by the public, but even the employees of some of these networks have expressed a strong point of view. So, I think it's more in response to that, that organizations like Twitter are taking these decisions because of the public opinion and the environment in which they're operating. It's not to do with not wanting the political dollars in my view.”

On the other hand, media expert Anita Nayyar said: “There are enough examples in the West where the influence social media has on the voting audiences is so much that the political battlefield has seen some very shocking outcomes. The influence social media has on people, where the fake news syndrome can also cause a lot of damage to the political system, is one of the most compelling reasons for saying no to political ads and hence political money.”

Sharing his views on the influence of personalities in social media, Akshay Popawala, Co-founder and Director, Digital Communication & Strategy, Togglehead, said: “Twitter has always provided a direct link between known personalities and their followers. Keeping this mature and authentic position in mind, it has a key role to play in amplifying content, both true and false.”

“The ban, I believe, does not wipe out Twitter from the communication funnel of political parties or candidates. However, it does promote transparency,” Popawala added.
Coming to the Indian scenario, Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEO of Mirum India, said, “Political parties in India will also need to look beyond Twitter for their advertising. Having said that, the organic form of advertising as well as guerrilla advertising using influencer programmes may still continue and could be used strategically used for political promotions on Twitter.”

In a series of 11 straightforward Tweets, Jack Dorsey announced their decision to ban all political ads globally on the social media platform. “A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money,” the Twitter CEO’s post said.

This move by Twitter is in stark contrast to Facebook’s stance on political ads so far.

Interestingly, the announcement by the Twitter Head came just an hour before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was to announce the company’s quarterly earnings on Wednesday. This prompted Zuckerberg to not only defend his company’s decision on not wanting to curb free speech but to also downplay the earnings from political advertising. “We estimate that the ads from politicians will be less than 0.5% of our revenue next year,” he said.

Is this move set to change the political ad scenario in India, especially before the upcoming polls in the national capital early next year? Most said no.

According to BJP’s IT cell Head Amit Malviya, “We are quite indifferent to Twitter’s decision to ban political ads. It is Twitter’s prerogative how they want to run their business. Our strength on the platform is completely organic. It is also desirable if there is greater transparency around Twitter’s user policies as they have often come under question for leaning towards a specific political worldview.”

Most political experts felt the development from Twitter is only an idyllic move. “If we were to not buy reach, then there should be a ban on television, print and radio ads too. Only then we can assure an organic reach. Having said that it is a good start,” said Naresh Arora, Director at DesignBoxed, the creative agency appointed by the Congress party for most of its social media campaigns.
Twitter ads cost 5 times the ads on other social media platforms and hence are used conservatively by political parties, Arora said. “Hardly 10 per cent of total social media spends is on Twitter as the platform doesn’t have a vote changing capacity like many of its counterparts,” he added.

It is now to be seen how the ban pans out and if it really affects the Indian scenario.

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