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WhatsApp's latest AI ad capabilities: A knife in the hands of business?

WhatsApp's latest AI ad capabilities: A knife in the hands of business?

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WhatsApp is integrating AI-driven ad targeting program for businesses, and according to Tech Crunch, it is testing this ability with select merchants in India and Singapore, with expansion to Brazil underway.

As part of the new offering, WhatsApp is also integrating AI to help businesses create ads on Facebook and Instagram, reminding customers they left an item in their cart or offering a discount for a purchase they’ve been waiting to make. The AI tools can help businesses on WhatsApp better assist customers and help them discover new products they may be interested in, and respond to the most popular questions businesses receive on WhatsApp.

Don't miss: Whatsapp for businesses gets AI-driven ad injection

Clearly, the move is to draw out ad revenue on the widely used platform which has in recent years embraced features such as payment and customer service.

In a blog post published last month by customer engagement platform Braze, it reported that Meta’s WhatsApp messaging platform serves more than 2 billion users across 180+ countries, and since Meta opened up WhatsApp to marketing use cases in 2022, it’s become a go-to for brands as well, allowing them to reach consumers where they are with impactful marketing messages.

With Meta integrating AI-driven ads to the platform, WhatsApp's deliverability and how user engagement works on the platform will undoubtedly evolve.

Industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to say the move clearly depicts the importance of conversational commerce. Serm Teck Choon, cofounder and CEO of Antsomi said today more and more interactions have shifted to messaging platforms such as WhatsApp which offer brands and consumers a more direct way to communicate compared to social media.

Moreover, some people have also taken a step back from social posting over the past few years which ultimately means, Meta needs to create new revenue streams apart from Facebook and Instagram.

“WhatsApp is naturally the next gold mine for it to develop the next revenue stream as it’s the leading messaging platform in many countries such as US,” he said.

The new offering is also very likely to benefit businesses that focus on direct-to-consumers (DTC) conversions. “These businesses, which have been or are planning to implement chatbots or automated customer service, can leverage the new AI tools to provide personalised and efficient customer service, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty,” he added.

Small business owners are likely to be the first to embrace Meta’s AI capabilities for creating and delivering targeted ads on WhatsApp, said Manuel Denoual, general manager, NP Digital Singapore.

“With limited resources and precious time, they will be eager to let Meta’s AI manage their ads, allowing them to focus on scaling their business,” he said. This is of course, assuming that Meta delivers on its promises of efficiency and ROI, and there is no significant backlash from Whatsapp users. If these conditions are met, medium-to-large businesses will likely follow suit, using AI-powered ads to drive their growth, provided it aligns with their brand safety guidelines.

“Long gone are the days of “No ads! No games! No gimmicks!” from WhatsApp’s co-founder Brian Acton. It’s time for Meta to cash in and accelerate the monetisation from the world's most popular messaging app and its most expensive acquisition to date,” said Denoual.

What to look out for

Ajay Mohan, founder and director of consultancy Enfactum, said that with the new offering, the onus of managing the customers will ultimately lie with a business. He said:

WhatsApp advertising will be a knife in the hands of the business. How they use it will determine their business success or brand failure. Do they add value to customers or become a nuisance?

Ultimately, if a business user does not respect customer boundaries, it can lead to a negative customer experience and a bad experience.

Mohan, who also works with brands that use WhatsApp for channel communication in India, Malaysia, said that the choice of test markets is interesting as it allows Meta to explore the possibilities across diverse but strong WhatsApp markets.

Denoual agreed that Meta’s decision to double down on targeted advertising on WhatsApp has the potential to alienate a large portion of its users who may find these ads intrusive or spammy, regardless of how targeted they are.

"We can expect Meta’s product team to place a strong emphasis on the user experience in the months leading up to the global rollout, but the risk remains significant. Businesses that choose to embark on this journey will need to adopt a test-and-learn approach and closely monitor the performance of Meta’s AI and how their ads resonate with their target audiences and future customers," he said.

Soumik Chakraborty, an educator and digital consulant (Singapore Polytechnic), added on that to safeguard themselves, businesses should be explicit in their permission for Whatsapp marketing - not just use the website or permission checkboxes as a process. “Asking explicitly and setting expectation would go a long way,” he said.

Last month Meta also announced its expansion of generative AI ads products to include tools that can create full image variations of original ad creatives and overlay text atop them. Meta also launched an image expansion feature which can adjust creative assets to fit different aspect ratios across multiple surfaces, making it available across Reels and Feed on Instagram and Facebook. The offering also works with text overlays on ads.

Simultaneously, the tech giant is also testing the ability for generated text to reflect a brand's voice and tone. This will be based on previous campaigns and text input. The feature will soon be built with Meta Llama 3.

According to industry experts MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to, for brands and agency partners that actively use Meta’s social media platforms, its new Gen AI features for ad creation will be a "welcome addition" to the existing creative solutions tools available as long as it is used smartly.

Join us on 12 June 2024 for an exciting experience as Content360 makes its debut in Malaysia! Brace yourself to join the crème de la crème of the content marketing industry hailing from across the region. Immerse yourself in a dynamic atmosphere, and uncover the latest trends with thought leaders and solution providers from the realm of content.

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