Will Twitter's $1m Vine investment bear fruit?

The video app is an interesting addition to Twitter's offering, but does it have commercial potential, Alasdair Reid asks.

Twitter’s six-second video app Vine has arrived and, for advertisers, its pot­ential must represent a serious proposition.

The ever-ambitious Twitter acquired the company that developed the Vine app in a deal valued in the region of $1 million last year, and the prospect of a new space for brands to engage for six seconds is spookily reminiscent of the satirical 80s notion of the "blipvert".

Vine is likely to become an integral part of Twitter’s commercial offering, although the company is reticent about discussing any such plans.

Brands have been quick to experiment with the service, with Asos, Topshop and even Southampton FC among the first to trial the app. However, the initial efforts have included stop-gap animation and speed drawing.

So could Vine tickle the fancy of advertisers? Paul Armstrong, the head of social at Mindshare, believes it can, although he concedes that it might take a while for people to understand its true potential. "Vine could do more than simply put a smile on people’s faces. It has, with the right strategy, the potential to make cash registers ring," he predicts.

Andy Pringle, the performance media director at Performics, says that to excite advertisers, Vine first has to excite users – and it is far too early to assess whether it will.

But, he says, it clearly has commercial potential: "The service shouldn’t be treated as a poor relation to a TV ad, but I think it will be possible to get a message across in an impactful way that is relevant and meaningful."

Nathalie Coulibeuf, the social media director at PHD UK, agrees, although she says it is worrying that Facebook has, in effect, blocked the Vine app.

And Stefan Bardega, a managing partner at MediaCom, points out that Twitter has always been at least one step ahead of the sceptics and mockers.

He explains: "We’ve already seen some interesting stuff. Schuh has used it to rotate shoes by 360 degrees – so there is an opportunity for brands to show products in the round. And I believe there is real potential generally for short video ads. Five years ago, if I had told you the sorts of things that could be achieved in 140 characters on Twitter, you’d have laughed. So, I’m convinced that short video clips will be an important emerging sector."

However, Vine’s launch on 24 January has not been universally celebrated; a scathing Patrick Garratt at The Huffington Post believes it is likely to harbour as much value as "wrapping a baby’s backside in shiny toilet paper", for instance.

There are also fears that Vine could soon be swamped, and effectively killed, by porn. Shortly after launch, a user began uploading explicit sexual content – and, in a potential public relations disaster, at least one such clip was featured in the "editor’s pick" section of the app.

Twitter has promised to ban searches for explicit content and to delete the accounts of users posting unacceptable material. But, as with so much in the social space, the reality of policing and ruling on such instances could yet prove to be problematic.

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