‘Going where the customer is’: Marketers are coming for messaging apps

Marketers want to put ads everywhere — on boats, in Ubers and even inside fortune cookies. But one place that still remains unfulfilled is messaging.

Ads in messaging exist, and they will only expand, marketers said. Messaging apps such as Facebook’s Messenger, Snapchat and Twitter each have ad formats ingrained within the messaging experience. Tools within messaging such as GIFs from Giphy and stickers from Emogi can be branded. And as more traditional spaces such as Facebook’s News Feed and Google search get more competitive, marketers are looking for other cheaper but effective options.

“Advertisers have to follow the mantra of going where the customer is. No doubt that monetizing messaging will continue to be a focus area as digital advertising continues to spread its wings and follow platforms where customers are spending their time,” said Jerry Canning, vp of digital sales at National CineMedia.

Twitter offers standard ad units such promoted tweets and promoted trends, but the service also has opened up the service’s direct message feature to marketers. For example, Microsoft’s Zo, an AI chatbot, is available on Twitter. This month, Zo messaged its Twitter followers, “Need help finding the perfect gift? I’ve been working with BuzzFeed to help you find just the right gifts for even the hardest to shop for ppl in your life. Say #hacktheholidays to get started!”

In partnership with BuzzFeed, Zo shared personalized gift guides to people on Twitter DM, Messenger, GroupMe, Skype and Kik.

“BuzzFeed is known for their gift guides and shopping content with insights that made them a great partner for the Zo team to explore opportunities to make gift discovery a novel, more personal experience,” said Ying Wang, Microsoft’s director of Zo and AI, in an email.

Facebook offers ads in Messenger and has been growing its chatbot business as well. The company touts that 10 billion messages are sent between people and business every month. This year, Lego created a chatbot called “Ralph the Gift Bot” that provided recommendations to users. According to Facebook, the campaign’s cost per conversion was 31 percent higher with click-to-Messenger ads compared to other conversion-based ads.

Canning, who worked at Facebook from 2014 to 2017 as an industry director of financial services, said that Messenger not only has the advantage of scale — more than 1 billion users — but also the “backbone of Facebook’s tech spine.”

“As Facebook continues to roll out the integration of ads across this platform, marketers will benefit from their willingness to pursue closed-loop attribution within Facebook’s environment,” he said.

This year, Snapchat has been pushing ads in conversations through augmented reality experiences, some of which offer shopping directly through the AR. For example, Domino’s created an AR pizza that where users could tap order a pizza. Adidas ran a shoppable AR ad where users could “try on” shoes and has previously run other lenses where users could click to purchase. According to Snap, sponsored lenses are played with for 10 to 15 seconds, on average, before being sent to friends on the app. They drive a 19-point lift in ad awareness, a 6-point lift in brand awareness and a 3.4-point lift in action intent, the company has said previously.

Giphy, the GIF maker with its own apps and integrations across several platforms, started making money this year through branded campaigns.

“Messaging has resisted traditional, interrupted advertising for a very obvious reason: It would be super annoying. Search, though, is intentional behavior. We have the search bar inside every messaging app. The opportunity for us is to surface conversational content and gives users the opportunity to see them, click them and share them,” said Alex Magnin, Giphy’s head of revenue.

So far, Giphy has seen interest from two main advertising groups. One is brands that have visually recognizable products such as those in consumer packaged goods or quick service restaurants. The other is advertisers who are interested in marketing around “culturally relevant moments,” Magnin said.

“We’re having conversations with every major advertising category and really when we think about this space, it truly is enormous. People spend more time on messaging apps than they do on the mobile web, and mobile web is $10 billion in U.S. ad spend,” Magnin said.

Looking ahead to 2019, Canning said he expected Facebook to continue leading the way with chatbots and ads in Messenger, along with WhatsApp. He also noted that he and other marketers pay close attention to WeChat in China and Line in Japan.

“Marketers will continue to keep an eye on those two platforms to understand where messaging is headed in the U.S.” he said.


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