Facebook Messenger is rolling out home screen ads worldwide, meaning consumers will see branded messages in the app’s inbox for the first time.
The home screen on Messenger acts as an inbox for a user’s most recent conversations with friends, automated bots, or brands.
The move follows a beta test which began in January in Australia and Thailand.
Existing Messenger ads include sponsored messages and ads in Facebook News Feeds that redirect to Messenger conversations with a bot or human.
Sponsored messages can only be sent to users a company has already had a conversation with.
Ads in the Home tab will follow an auction-based model and will feature the same sort of user-targeting capabilities found on Facebook or Instagram.
Alongside Facebook, Line and other platforms are looking to do the same
Ads on the home screen also brings Messenger closer to its goal of facilitating a connection between its 1.2 billion users and the 70 million businesses on Facebook. A desire to connect the two has been part of the Messenger strategy since the Messenger Platform for bots debuted at F8 in April 2016.
However, while messenger platforms are very high engagement platforms for people, it’s rare that advertising messages will do anything other than interrupt. This means that media owners tread the tightrope for intrusive advertising experiences, so easier to get wrong than right.
But there could be an opportunity with bots. As Mary Meeker highlighted in her 2017 Internet Trends report — and Facebook has maintained since the launch of the Messenger Platform a year ago — “Customer service is shifting to chat.”
Whether the focus is on bots speaking to humans or two people having a conversation, competition in this space has increased sharply this year.