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POV: New Facebook Messenger Ads

Background:

Facebook has announced it is rolling out Ads within the Messenger platform globally following tests carried out in Australia and Thailand. The move is one of the giant’s first steps to monetising what has up until now been an ad free environment.

Details and Implications:

The move will open up significant new inventory for Facebook to sell advertising and subsequently greater reach for advertisers and it is possibly a sign that Facebook is reaching saturation for ad opportunities within the traditional news feed. The latest stats show that monthly active users of Messenger have reached 1.2bn and there are about 2bn messages a month exchanged between business/services on messenger, so there is clearly a lot of engagement on the platform.

You can currently run Messenger ads within the Facebook news feed that directly link users into a Messenger chat as the Messenger platform sits independently from Facebook. The newly announced ads will not directly appear within users’ Messenger conversations but will appear within their inbox. Similar to the news feed Messenger ad format, advertisers can use this placement to open a new chat. So far over 11,000 chat bots have been developed by brands for Messenger to improve the relationship with consumers. The additional feature could drive up this development cycle and also be used to funnel consumers through to the brands’ websites that sit outside the Facebook world.

The ads will be able to leverage the wealth of user data and existing Facebook targeting options to ensure they remain relevant to users. The question is how will consumers react to adverts inside what has up until now been an ad free experience? Brands must consider the messages that they are going to target users with. Messenger is a place they go for private conversation, so ads within this environment may be seen to be intrusive. The release of the ads has not been without controversy, for example an article by TechCrunch said: "Who’s going to suddenly decide to browse men’s shoes at Timberland instead of responding to a message, which they opened the app to do?" As always, the play here is that the user is in control. It is important to note that as a user you will be able to report or hide specific ads.

The ads remain in beta for the moment, which suggests there are more necessary developments to come. With Messenger currently being a uncluttered advertising environment advertisers can expect CPM to be cheaper than the much more competitive news feed environment, but as with any new environment we advertise within, testing is going to be key especially if you are an early adopter of this format.  It will be important to test creative and understand what users are blocking so you know how best to make this format useful for users. 

Summary:

Messenger makes up less than 7% of consumption time across Facebook and Instagram, so how much this will contribute to revenue growth is questionable. However, if this new advertising opportunity sees broad adoption then this would alleviate the competition around the news feed as well as provide additional reach to advertisers, which should serve to improve advertiser efficiency across the Facebook environment. Our recommendation is to use Messenger ads where appropriate, as with all other advertising placements. Where an advertiser is already using Messenger for customer service there is a clear fit to increase the integration and conversations.  

Further Reading:

TechRadar
TechCrunch