WeChat takes on Facebook with upgraded targeted self-service advertising offering

WeChatTencent has quietly launched an upgraded version of a service that enables WeChat advertisers to book campaigns themselves in a more targeted, transparent way.

In a move that puts the self-service ad system more in competition with Facebook’s, WeChat’s Official Accounts platform will enable brands to choose the exact accounts they want to target.

It also enables users to place orders through the ads, process payments and track ad performance. 

The idea is to make the self-service system, the first version of which was introduced at the start of the year, more flexible and transparent, and so encourage more advertisers to use it.

Advertisers can choose the OA they want to runs ads on, and OA owners can accept or decline orders from advertisers. WeChat provides advertisers will ad display date, page views and costs.

According to a report from Deutsche Bank, Facebook has more than four million self-service advertisers while WeChat is likely to have only a few hundred thousand, a small number relative to its vast user base.

David Ko, head of Hong Kong digital marketing agency Daylight Partnership, commented that this was “a brilliant move” by Tencent, and an additional option to Moments advertising, the first self-service system.

“Brokering the buying process directly between advertisers and Official Accounts empowers both and offers greater flexibility,” said Ko. “The entry threshold of 500,000 RMB means only advertisers above a certain scale can take advantage of this, ensuring a certain base level of quality, as well as organically limiting quantity, allowing Tencent to assess whether they will alienate users.

“In the social world, WeChat seems to be leading the way in innovation, so I’m curious to see if global platforms such as Facebook will ever evolve Whatsapp to offer OAs and then monetise them later. These are exciting times for the industry.”

The news emerges as Facebook ramps up its e-commerce capabilities, an area that WeChat has long been more advanced in.

The social network recently added a food delivery, appointment booking and ticket purchasing functionality for brands through Facebook Pages, adding weight to the Singapore country director’s comments last week that Facebook is “not just in the business of driving ‘likes'” for brands.

William Bao Bean, Asia partner at investment firm SOS Ventures, commented at a Tech In Asia event in Singapore in April that “WeChat is about 18 months ahead of Facebook” in terms of its progress to monetise its platform.

“Facebook is pretty old school. If you go on to Facebook and look around you cannot buy anything. You go on to WeChat and look around, you can buy everything,” he said.

However, data from consultancy Kepios from September this year, shows Facebook way out in front of WeChat in terms of active users.

Active social users by platform

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