Facebook is famously cautious when it comes to introducing new ads into its roster of platforms. Ever since the site first launched, the logic has been: make the service cool, even integral to people’s lives, before monetising their data.
With Messenger recently passing the billion user mark, it was inevitable that ads would soon follow. But we didn’t expect them to look quite like this.
In a blogpost, Eddie Zhang, a product manager at Facebook, announced a “very small test” in Australia and Thailand of pretty hefty adverts displayed on the Messenger home screen, just below the recent conversations unit.
Zhang stressed that users wouldn’t see an ad in a conversation unless they had clicked on an ad experience on the homescreen, or started a conversation with a brand. Nevertheless, some may be surprised to suddenly find ads in a platform designed for private conversations.
Explaining the motivation for the move, Zheng wrote: “Businesses have long been telling us that they are very excited about the potential of the Messenger platform to reach their customers and help them to drive sales, build brand awareness and increase customer satisfaction.”
He concluded that the site would be taking its time before considering further expansion “to ensure advertisers and users get the best possible experience”.
Facebook previously announced that it would enable businesses with which users had already interacted to start chats. But as Tech Crunch’s Sarah Perez noted: “Those type of ads are more interruptive, and could make people less likely to open organic messages, because they come to think of messages in the app as being spam.”
It’s not yet clear whether WhatsApp, which was aggressively anti-advertising before Facebook acquired it, will also feature these ads if the test is successful.