Facebook tests putting its news feed ads in Messenger to make app more plug-and-pay for brands

Facebook is about to max out the amount of ads it can slot into people’s Facebook feeds, so it’s been ramping up its roll-out of ads elsewhere: to Instagram, to others’ apps and sites through its ad network, to Groups and now to Messenger.

In a test, Facebook has started placing ads on its messaging service’s home screen, the company announced on Wednesday. For now the ads will only be shown to a “very small group of people in Thailand and Australia,” according to a company blog post.

The ads announced on Wednesday are different from the sponsored messages introduced in Messenger last year. Instead of being native to Messenger — like the sponsored messages that brands can buy to ping people who have previously messaged them — the new ads being tested are native to Facebook and migrated to Messenger. They appear to be the equivalent of Google putting a search ad in your Gmail inbox.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the ads being tested in Messenger are Facebook news feed ads and said that advertisers will need to have enabled messaging on their Pages to run these ads in Messenger.

There’s a solid business rationale for why Facebook would extend its news feed ads to Messenger. It’s the same rationale behind Facebook extending its news feed ads to Instagram and Audience Network. It makes the effort of getting advertisers to put money toward an unproven environment more plug-and-pay: plug in the ads you’re already familiar with and pay the way you already do.

“This context is one that advertisers have had a harder time cracking, so I think from an advertiser perspective, there’s potentially a lot of upside. Assuming that you’ll be able to [use Facebook’s existing ad-buying tools to buy the new Messenger ads], it becomes an easy way for an advertiser to add a new environment,” said MEC’s head of social for North America, Noah Mallin.

The new ads will show up within a horizontally swipeable carousel, like the ones on Facebook and Instagram and in Audience Network, that will appear below the list of recent conversation threads on Messenger’s home screen. It’s the real estate that Messenger usually uses to show you a list of which friends are currently active or which ones are having a birthday.

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