Saturday, February 14, 2015

Advertising in more personal communication channels

Recently, Wechat App announced that they would push out advertisements in the “moment” section in their app. This news immediately generated much discussion among the public, especially in China, where the majority of Wechat users live. This move, albeit within expectation, raised a lot of question on how to advertise in a more personal environment for communication. Why is that? Let me give you some background on the app itself first.

Wechat is an app across multiple mobile phone platforms that allows the user to send instant text messages to each other. It functions much like whatsapp, but with many more extensions that tap into different aspects of life: a personal page or “moment” much like the facebook idea, a payment system that can be linked with various bank account, a cooperation with a Chinese taxi hailing service make it possible to use it for better travel arrangements around Chinese cities, and they even have radio, audio and video chat functions that rivals with services such as Skype, facetime, gchat ,etc. Given its vast amount of functionality and ease of use, it has grown very fast in China and all over the world. Collectively, Wechat has attracted more than 400 million users globally, and almost the entire market in China.

Given such a huge user base, there is no doubt that marketers all have their eyes on the pie. Additionally, given all the chat history that the company holds, the data contain extremely high value in figuring out when and what to push to the user – data mining becomes super important and useful here. However, advertisements on such a platform are considered much harder than the other platforms since this platform is much more personal compared to the others. Looking back to when facebook initiated their advertisements on people’s timeline, there is no doubt that a fair amount of people would feel offended as they considered their facebook page to be very personal. If that has been the reaction, can you imagine if Whatsapp starts to put advertisements in to people’s phones? That is the danger Wechat is facing, and it is no small step, an inappropriate move could potentially drive away users and fuel rival apps’ growth. So what should they do?

Well, first of all, you can never be more careful in making this transition. So far the Wechat team has been extremely cautions in bringing marketers on board. They started with a Wechat team message that was posted on people’s moment section as part of the effort to educate their customers about the upcoming ads. Then, only a handful of prestige firms, such as BMW, Cadillac, were brought in to do the initial ads. This not only ensures the branding and image of the app itself, but also offers the best chance to bring high quality ads into the platform. More interestingly, the ads themselves are targeted based on users’ history, such that Cadillac can only target people who they thought be the most appropriate receivers, or likely car buyers. More interestingly, people in China actually took the ad injection very well. If anything, some people even refresh their pages many times a day in the hope to be targeted by the ad so that they can show to their friends how “high end” they are. We will see what is coming next after this initial round.

No comments: