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Twitter opens ad network to promoted tweets, video

The Twitter banner hangs at the NYSE.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
The Twitter banner hangs at the NYSE.

Twitter said Thursday it will enable advertisers to share promoted videos and tweets to the full 700 million people in the MoPub network, which is more than double the 300 million people who use Twitter.

This move looks to turn MoPub—a mobile advertising network that Twitter acquired for $350 million two years ago—into a real engine for growth, by pushing out videos and tweets to apps that include Candy Crush and Slack video.

It's part of a broader turnaround effort by the San Francisco-based social media company. While it works on "Project Lightning"—a product overhaul in the works—it's also working to diversify away from its core service.

The message Twitter's trying to send: Twitter is so much bigger than just Twitter.

"We're seeing such demand from marketers to run more video campaigns and get more reach," says Ameet Ranadive, Twitter's senior director of revenue product. "It's about delivering additional value for advertisers; now they can come to one place and with a single click extend those campaigns."

Twitter won't reveal what percent of its revenue comes from MoPub and won't say how much it expects today's news to grow its revenue. Ranadive calls it "a small but fast-growing part of revenue."

"The way we're thinking about it: We're seeing these trends in the industry where users are spending a lot more time in mobile, on apps," says Ranadive. "We're trying to solve this problem, how do you deliver ads on mobile. The more we can help our clients solve their problems the more beneficial it is for us, so we're helping with reach and helping with efficiency."

The company's also renaming its network the "Twitter Audience Platform" as it launches the promoted video and promoted tweets, a year after it started allowing advertisers to push mobile app install ads and re-engagement ads out to the "Twitter Publisher Network." The company says it'll add other types of ads to the program—the ability to promote website clicks.

The idea is to make it easy for marketers, with a click of a button, to extend a promoted video campaign that they're running on Twitter across other mobile apps. And as with the promoted videos that run within Twitter, in other apps the videos can play automatically while being entirely in view—in contrast to Facebook, which has drawn criticism for counting video views even if rolling video ads are mostly out of view. And now people who see the ads can retweet them, even if they're looking at the ad in a game app, rather than Twitter itself.

"They're not only improving their reach, it's also improving their return on investment," Ranadive says.

The addition of video ads to this broader network is huge, as video is the most valuable ad format. Twitter also said that advertisers who used this network doubled their reach and lowered their price per ad by as much as 30 percent. The question is whether this will translate to higher ad revenue and distract from slowing user growth.