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18 September 09:22

Why marketers need to use ads in messaging app

Ads have become a normal but annoying part of online life for years, now. But now with ads in apps like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger, the game is changing

By Mediaplanet Creative Team

Brands have good reason to be hesitant about advertising on messaging apps, but there are even more reasons to jump in — because advertising on messaging platforms isn’t going away and will only become more important in the future.

The technology that enables humans to have intelligent conversations with computers is in its early days, but the idea isn’t. People have been fascinated with the prospect of AI-enabled computers since the dawn of sci-fi. But now science fiction is becoming science fact and the tech world is starting to put its energy into improving AI. So it’s unsurprising that the major messaging apps, which are eager to monetize their products, are developing or have developed AI-driven chat and voice ads.

This presents a dilemma for marketers. We all have a lot to gain by being the first in our sector to use AI to talk and text privately with our users. But it is also risky because it’s easy to get it wrong and annoy people with intrusive and unintentionally stupid or creepy propositions.

Success or the avoidance of disaster not only requires savvy tech, but also a creative department with a flawless approach to laying out natural conversations. The idea, as usual, is focusing on your audience’s wants and needs and making sure that your brand’s proposition is useful, informational and entertaining. A pushy chatbot isn’t going to win anyone over.

eMarketer covered the race to develop advertising on messaging apps in a study of the four largest messaging apps: Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which are both blocked in China, as well as the leader in China, WeChat, and Japan’s LINE. Together, the big four have 4 billion users, or over half the planet’s population.

Last year, when Techcrunch uncovered Facebook’s plan to deploy ads to Messenger, the social network was defensive at first.

At the time, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine wrote, “Facebook told me ‘Our aim with Messenger is to create a high-quality, engaging experience for people around the world, and that includes ensuring people do not experience unwanted messages of any type.’”

Facebook’s position was understandable, given the potential for backlash from its users.

eMarketer’s view is that LINE and WeChat are the most advanced of the four chat apps and offer businesses the best support, but the website notes that they operate primarily in Asia. WhatsApp and Messenger are more global (besides not being able to jump the “Great Firewall of China”), but Messenger is starting to ramp up advertising support and WhatsApp doesn’t support ads at all.

Facebook, which owns both Messenger and WhatsApp, is keen to improve on its $30 billion a year ad revenue by developing more tools for advertisers on Messenger. Thus far, the social network has introduced ads that automatically open chats between advertisers and their audience. This ad-chat combo can also be used by brands to give out coupons for special offers. Fast food giants including Taco Bell, Domino’s and Subway have already started using Messenger bots to take orders.

So far, thousands of brands have fielded bots on Facebook Messenger. But the chance that anyone does find them is next to zero. And if somebody does come in contact with a bot, their experience is likely to be so clunky that’s it’s not worth their time.

As one eMarketer analyst put it, “There’s a lot to be learned. The way I would sum it up is that marketers really want to be in front of this messaging audience on Messenger, but the skill level is really low at this point on a lot of them.”

One hurdle is that chatbots is still new and it’s not clear to most brands how to implement them well. Indeed, a lot of marketers just concentrate on the tech and don’t realize that the success of chatbots also depends on the creative side.

For all of these reasons, the time for brands to dive in is now. But don’t just think of it as a DIY project you can slap together. You need to understand both the creative and technical sides to be successful.

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