Native Advertising Adopts Mesenger Bots

As we enter a new stage of social media, Facebook’s primary focus has shifted towards its messaging platform, where it has recently begun to implement advertising tactics. Frustrated with the abundance of advertisements that many times are presented in a deceiving demeanor, users are engaging less and less with the “wall” feed and have instead opted to use Facebook as a messaging tool. In response to the ad-heavy feeds, brands have begun to utilize native advertising: a “form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed”. For example, on Facebook, many users will read articles that appear to be newsworthy, but in reality, they are sponsored posts attempting to influence users to buy a specific product or service. This is especially seen through Facebook’s Buzzfeed channel whose primary visitors are millennials who are becoming more and more immune and critical of the overused tactics of traditional advertising.

Only a short decade ago, digital advertising experts estimated that the average American was exposed to 500–2,000 advertisements a day. Today, while estimates vary considerably, many experts believe that people are exposed to up to 5,oo0 a day according to a Yankelovich study published in the New York Times. This is most certainly influenced by the amount of time spent using technology which in 2015 was estimated to be above 11 hours a day. According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average amount of time spent using a computer (the almost exclusive technological device used at the time) for leisure activities in 2006 was about 1 hour per day . This tremendous jump alone demonstrates how advertising has shifted from more traditional formats such as tv spots, radio spots, and billboards to digital advertisements such as banner ads and native advertisements.

Nevertheless, as the digital marketing industry continues to evolve advertisers are learning how to better target consumers and in turn, are able to cater specific advertisements to particular demographics. Google tracks users browsing and click history, allowing it to develop individual profiles for each user. Later, Google utilizes this information to make a profit by showing specific advertisements to the desired demographics. Recently, Facebook has gone a step farther with this tailored and personalized format of advertising by employing messaging bots, a type of native advertising.

These bots act as customization agents that interact with consumers in a conversation format. Users respond to questions and the bot will interpret the user’s answers to provide a customized answer. At Edge, we created a Pork Be inspired bot for the National Pork Board whose purpose is to provide Facebook users with different pork recipes via the messenger app.

Users can start a conversation with the Pork Be inspired bot which will begin by asking what time of the day they are interested in cooking their meal for. Users can then ask the bot to provide answers through keyword search allowing the bot to act as a filter. For example, entering “bacon” indicates the user would like to cook something using bacon, prompting the bot to provide bacon-related recipes (See image below). By increasing the interaction with advertisements, a consumer is more likely to recall having an experience with a brand; thus, it is clear that pull strategies such as bots are more effective than push strategies such as billboards. According to Ryan McEndarfer of Davis Advertising, they completed a study that demonstrated this as he explains “The traditional push method means pushing all your information to the consumer through traditional media. But now, businesses need to pull consumers to them, by delivering information they can find via digital and social media.”.

“Pork Be inspired” Example Chat

Another example of how Facebook provides personalized results using a pull strategy, is it’s Buzzfeed Quiz platform. This platform consists of numerous quizzes including “We know which College Club you Should Belong to” and “Pick Your Favorite Food and We’ll Give you a Boyfriend” most of which serve to extract data from consumers which will later influence which advertisements they are exposed to. However, sprinkled among these quizzes are “sponsored” quizzes which are essentially a form of native advertising. For example, a quiz titled “Are you a Pancake Person or a Waffle Person?” may appear to be just like any other quiz, but after taking a closer look, it is actually an advertisement sponsored by Bisquick. While this quiz may actually help users determine their pancake/waffle preference, it’s goal is to make users associate all waffles and pancakes with the Bisquick brand; in hopes that the next time they are making a purchasing decision for pancake/waffle mix they will recall their experience with the brand.

This extremely strategic advertising technique is believed to be the future of social media. However, as it is employed more and more, users have begun to recognize it as deceptive and are less inclined to interact with this type of material. This could be one of the principal reasons users have become more inclined to use Facebook’s messenger app. As a result of this, Facebook and similar companies will need to develop new strategies like bots in order to reach consumers.

While this technology is still in a young phase, it will surely continue to rapidly develop. When speaking with developers Nikolai Bourdain and Charles Gaffney, they expressed that these systems will become much more advanced in the coming years as they become equipped with more data information and develop greater technological capacities. With these advancements, advertisements will become much more diverse and complex, and in turn, highly personalized. Furthermore, this will make advertisements more effective and efficient as they will drive the customer experience and eliminate the need for many live customer service roles. Finally, this type of advertisement eliminates the need for banner ads that target a specific type of consumer as this system can provide every individual user with tailor-made advertisements.