BlackBerry Messenger Debuts Slate of Ad Products

Sponsored content emerges

BlackBerry is introducing ads and virtual stickers into its messenger app as it tries to squeeze value from its core communication service. BlackBerry executives were in New York last week showing off the new native advertising formats on Messenger.

Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry is starting to sell sponsored content on brand channels inside the mobile app. Brands like Rolling Stone, Disney and MarketWatch post content to Messenger for subscribers to follow. Additionally, brands can buy sponsored positions called Featured Placements to promote their channels, and there will be sponsored posts like there are on Facebook within the brands’ content feeds.

“It comes with a couple of in built sponsored content opportunities,” David Proulx, BBM senior director, told Adweek. “So there are native formats that allow brands to reach out to that broader universe of BBM folks.”

BlackBerry is trying to give companies the chance to build relationships with subscribers, and Messenger allows some one-to-one communication between brands and users as well. One new ad product, dubbed sponsored invites, would let brands message individual users asking them to follow their channels. Proulx said such promotions would be limited so as not to annoy users, an ever-present concern for messaging apps experimenting with branded opportunities.

“At no point will sponsored content ever find its way into a chat,” Proulx said.

Instead, BlackBerry has other products that could place brands into the chat portion of the app—stickers. Stickers are part of the language of texting as users share emoticons in place of words.

Users have shown a willingness to pay for stickers that offer more options for expressing themselves and brands could certainly be a part of that expression. BlackBerry will join the trend by selling branded stickers like ones for sports teams. BlackBerry is working with entities such as WWE to offer the virtual goods.

The Messenger app has 85 million users and is available on Apple, Android, Windows and, of course, BlackBerry devices. The phone maker released the app on rival devices last year, a departure for the company that once stood atop the mobile world mostly thanks to its superior and proprietary messaging platform.

BlackBerry Messenger has evolved into a platform for content as well as individual texting, and competes in a space defined by upstarts like WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion.

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