With over 1.2 billion daily active users, Facebook’s Messenger app was bound to be monetized. Last year, Facebook began to insert ads from early adopters into Messenger. Earlier this year, it was rolled out to Thailand and Australia.
The new feature will allow business owners to monetise Messenger with an ad on the home screen and inserting sponsored messages. Advertisers will be able to redirect clicks to their brand site as well as their brand messenger conversation, falling under the 'traffic' and 'conversion' objectives in the Facebook Audience Network settings.
Messenger dependent markets
Perhaps the most potential for messenger ads in Asia may be found in developing markets like Myanmar. With over 15 million active monthly users in that market, Facebook has taken on the role of the internet and that of a search engine. So it is effectively the ecosystem of everything digital in the eyes of many people. For Sadia Komal Rashid, marketing manager at IBTC, the company behind liquor brands like Eagle and Grand Royal, it's a new opportunity to communicate with audiences.
The announcement means that a media impression on Messenger is not dependent on the user having an active data plan, unlike normal ads from Facebook usage. "More and more consumers are communicating with us via Facebook Messenger," she says. "We also run competitions which prompt consumers to contact us via Messenger. If I have a special message I can deliver it directly to my most engaged audience easily."
She anticipates that ads within Messenger will be so precise that they may raise concerns about user privacy, and expects that "pushback from the wider audience will have to be handled by all brands and especially Facebook. As for advertisers, we will have to ensure that the frequency is managed properly so that consumers are not bombarded with the same message several times. But then at the end of the day, a consumer can simply choose not open the message or not respond."
Messenger versus newsfeed ads
Like Snapchat, "it is understandable that Facebook is trying to look for other ad placements within their ecosystem to reach its audience,” says Kim Hoeu, the paid social lead for the APAC region at Essence. “Its cash cow, the newsfeed, is getting saturated, and Facebook knows that if they don't control it, the user experience will gradually diminish.”
Facebook has introduced ads in Instagram Stories, mid-roll video ads, and ads in Messenger. “The crucial thing here is to make sure that ads remain in their native environment and do not become intrusive to the point that the users get annoyed,” Hoeu says.
She notes that Facebook’s Messenger ads can be an interesting place to reach out to the users who might be more receptive to messaging as user behaviors in Messenger app and on the newsfeed are different.
Hoeu says she would not recommend non-skippable videos in the middle of content to her clients because “Facebook is a place where we discover content from friends and family” and a forced ad in the middle is highly intrusive.
Mirroring her viewpoint, Sunil Naryani, the head of paid media APAC for iProspect believes that advertisers will initially benefit from high open rates and engagement with ads that appear in conversational spaces that represented an escape from Facebook ads.
Like ads on WeChat, Naryani says “this provides a great opportunity for the consumer to both start and finish the journey within the platform.”
The new channel represents a shift in the ad clutter on Facebook. With smart creative, Naryani says “brands should strive to create a two-way dialogue within Messenger, demonstrating relevance and giving the brand natural inputs that will ultimately strengthen their understanding of their consumer base.”