Those ads have to go somewhere, and now, for a small test group of users in Australia and Thailand, “somewhere” is the home screen on Facebook Messenger.
Product manager Eddie Zhang announced in a blog post that the social network is testing a module on the Messenger home screen that resembles the application’s existing modules for birthdays and friends who are online.
Head of product for Messenger Stan Chudnovsky offered more details in an interview with Kurt Wagner of Recode, saying the ads will be similar to carousel ads in Facebook’s News Feed, with cards from five different advertisers.
Chudnovsky told Wagner the ads will appear “below the fold,” meaning users will have to scroll down a little before encountering them, adding that Facebook’s ad-targeting restrictions apply, so users will not be served ads based on what they are discussing in their messages.
Zhang added in his blog post that users can hide or report specific ads using the drop-down menus in their apps, and brands will not be able to message users directly until users initiate interactions with those brands. He wrote:
No one will see an ad in a conversation without clicking on an ad experience on the Messenger home screen or starting a conversation with a brand–these test ads won’t originate in your conversations. The test group of people in Thailand and Australia will start to see these ads in the coming weeks.
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. Our current offerings like ads that take people to Messenger conversations from their Facebook News Feed and sponsored messages have demonstrated that people are interested in hearing from and interacting with business and brands on Messenger. In fact, people are already regularly messaging businesses, with more than 1 billion messages sent between people and businesses on Messenger each month.
We believe this new test for the very small group of people in Thailand and Australia reflects a lightweight, relevant and useful approach to helping people and businesses connect on Messenger. For the Messenger community, it may enhance the discovery of new experiences to make it seamless to interact with businesses on their terms. For businesses, it could offer a new way to surface their products and services to current and potential customers.
And Chudnovsky said in his interview with Wagner:
We don’t want to even risk (invading user privacy). But until you try, you are never going to find out. That’s why we are going to try on a very small scale and see how people react.
Originally, people were also not very big believers in ads in News Feed because that felt very private, too. But the playbook that we had is the same. We are worried about (that), but we are also testing things even when we are worried about them.
We run long-term tests. It’s not going to be expanding anywhere for a long time.
Readers: What are your initial thoughts on this test?