Like mocking James Franco on Twitter? Marketers think you do

Brands snap up Viacom's Twitter video-ad slots for the "MTV Video Music Awards," and the media giant starts prepping more for Comedy Central's roast of actor James Franco and more than 30 other programs.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
James Franco's roast will likely lack the pleasures of talking to supermodels, like Petra Nemcova here during filming of the "Walking After Midnight" social-media video. PRNewsFoto/Stuart Weitzman Holdings LLC
With brands betting that women with stinky armpits will be tweeting about the MTV Video Music Awards, media giant Viacom and Twitter are betting marketers will want to court those reveling in the mockery of actor James Franco too.

Viacom, owner of such networks as MTV and Comedy Central, said Tuesday that brands like Degree Women and Pepsi have snapped up sponsorship slots for Twitter social-video-advertising campaigns linked to the "MTV Video Music Awards" later this month, with all the slots claimed within a week.

Now, Viacom and Twitter are creating new sponsorship slots for the "Comedy Central Roast of James Franco" and more than 30 other programming events and shows through the end of next year.

During Twitter's meteoric rise, a common complaint about the microblogging site was its dearth of revenue opportunities, especially in light of the hundreds of millions of dollars investors poured into the service. But in recent years, it has been bolstering its advertising business to become a legitimate marketing platform for a wide variety of companies.

Twitter this year opened up TV ad-targeting technology to U.S. marketers wanting to reach live-TV viewers with synchronized in-tweet promos. The initiative, called "Twitter Amplify," has been up and running in some form since early May, when early partners included Viacom and well as Conde Nast, MLB.com, BBC America, FOX, ESPN, and The Weather Channel.

Jeff Lucas, head of sales, music and entertainment at Viacom Media Networks, said in a statement that Twitter Amplify for the "MTV Video Music Awards" generated "such a great response from advertisers" that Viacom is accelerating plans to roll it out across its networks.

For the VMAs, MTV will push tweets with sponsored-supported video content -- that is, clips preceded by ads -- leading up to and during the show, like backstage clips and red carpet interviews. It will also tweet custom content developed for sponsors related to VMA award categories and MTV News coverage of the event. So: more ads.

With Amplify, Twitter pushes advertisers' extra video clips as promoted tweets to users who have likely seen the advertiser's broadcast spot while watching a live television program. The process of identifying actual ad viewers is handled by Bluefin Labs, the television analytics service that Twitter acquired earlier this year.

The VMAs are highly tweeted events. Last year, the awards program generated 14.7 tweets, putting it in the same category as the Olympics, the presidential election and the Super Bowl in terms of Twitter traction. Viacom also said that September's "Comedy Central Roast of James Franco" is seeing activity on Twitter.

We'll see if lampooning James Franco on Twitter is as popular as deriding Kanye West.