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Ads Come to Messenger

Slow rollout to a giant audience

July 12, 2017 | Mobile | Social Media

After seeing promising results in some markets, Facebook is expanding Messenger ads globally.

The company first announced that it would begin testing ads within Messenger among a small group of users in Australia and Thailand earlier this year.

Advertising will appear not within conversations but on the home tab, where notifications of new messages are aggregated. The number of ads a user sees will depend on screen size and the number of conversations featured.

Facebook appears to be taking a slow approach with ads on Messenger, where up until now users have not had to share the screen with promotions. “I think Messenger will approach this with caution. I doubt people will be overwhelmed by ads in their message list,” said eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson. “Facebook has learned a lot over the years about how much advertising it can show people before irritating them. When it launched ads on Instagram, it took the same slow approach.”

In all, Williamson said she expects users will find the experience similar to what they are already familiar with on Facebook and Instagram.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has tested advertising within Messenger. The social networking giant has also tested Click to Message ads in the US, which appear in Facebook’s News Feed but then link to an experience in Messenger.

“Some businesses have worked with this format and have found it to be successful in driving people to go from Facebook into Messenger to experience something, like a bot that enables you to book a hotel,” Williamson said.

But what separates this new rollout from Click to Message ads is that the entire ad experience takes place within Messenger. And given Messenger’s user base, advertisers will be able to reach a significant number of people.

US Facebook Messenger Users and Penetration, 2014-2020 (millions and % of mobile phone users)

In the US specifically, Facebook Messenger will reach 117.2 million mobile phone users by the end of this year, eMarketer projects. By 2020, that number will total 139.2 million.

As Facebook’s properties—including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger—continue to grow in popularity, their prospects for monetization will grow along with it.

eMarketer estimates that Facebook’s worldwide ad revenues will reach $36.29 billion this year, and will grow to $45.92 billion in 2018.

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