Tencent Opens WeChat Moments to All Advertisers

Marketers now have greater access to WeChat’s 600 million user base after the popular Chinese communication app opened its Moments feed to all advertisers.

In January, Tencent-owned WeChat opened Sponsored Moments to a select number of big name brands who could afford the rumored RMB 5 million (US$800,000) starting price. This latest move however removes that barrier of exclusivity, giving any brand access to targeted audiences according to location, interest, age, gender, device and phone network in Beijing, Shanghai, and 35 first and second tier Chinese cites.

Ads in Moments will show the brand name, a profile picture, text up to 40 characters long, a link to an html5 webpage hosted within the WeChat platform and up to six pictures.

Here’s an example for a Sponsored Moment from auto brand Infiniti:

wechat-moments-infiniti“WeChat is moving forward to becoming a more inclusive platform – in the spirit of Facebook – and we can expect more and more access to (anonymized) user data and better targeting over time,” says Jenny Chen, marketing manager at WeChat marketing agency, WalktheChat.

“If Tencent can manage to provide more specific targeting, for example, like in Facebook ads and being able to choose to target users following specific accounts, then the ads users see will bring more value and be better received,” she adds.

Napoleon Biggs, commercial director, Purecomm Retail, says that like all personal messaging platforms, Tencent’s WeChat – known in Chinese as Weixin – will need to show caution around maintaining a balance between messages from friends and those from advertisers. Currently, up to one ad appears in Moments every 48 hours, and if the seed user interacts with the ad, the likelihood of their friends receiving the same ad is increased – mechanisms which will help restrict ads from cramming user feeds, says Biggs.

WeChat will also be under pressure to demonstrate ROI. Tencent would not confirm cost-per-thousand (CPM), but WalktheChat is reporting CPM starting at RMB 40 (US$6.3) depending on the location of the target audience – significantly higher than existing Chinese alternatives like QQ and Weibo, which in some cases have CPM starting at RMB 0.2 (US$0.03).

A minimum RMB 200,000 (US$31,000) spend will also restrict SMEs – and spammers – from joining the party, says Biggs.

“Given that the app has more than 600 million monthly active users who share three billion items of content on Moments per day, the move is very significant,” says Biggs.

Currently advertisers can’t include external links so using Moments will be more for branding purposes. But industry participants such as Biggs believe that WeChat will introduce external links soon enough so that a brand can direct consumers to a purchase and release O2O marketing.

WalktheChat’s Chen says Moments ads will work well for well-known brands with visually attractive products but smaller companies, or those in the service or B2B industries, should consider other advertising channels. For example, if a company is aiming to acquire more followers to its WeChat account, Chen recommends the use of WeChat banner ads. For the promotion of a new product, a blog by a key opinion leader offers more information to users and a greater level of trust.

“In the second half of the year, we’ll continue to refine our ad formats, our ad approval processes and our ad targeting within Weixin Moments,” said Tencent management at the company’s Q2 results presentation earlier this month.

“Over the long term, we think [Weixin Moments] has the potential to be one of the largest products within our mobile performance advertising portfolio, because it enjoys enormous traffic, it enjoys relatively affluent users who are disproportionately appealing to advertisers, and therefore we believe it can tap into not only the kind of hard-core performance advertisers such as e-commerce companies and app developers, but also the brand performance advertisers. It’s a long path ahead, but we’re very optimistic about the destination for Weixin Moments advertising.”

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