Blackberry on how it plans to take on Facebook and Twitter for ad revenue with BBM

Blackberry has asserted it has the scale and ad formats to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter when it comes to generating ad revenue from its Blackberry Messenger (BBM) app.

Blackberry believes it can attract marketers’ mobile advertising spend away from the likes of Twitter and Facebook with BBM.

David Proulx, Blackberry’s senior director of BBM business development, told Marketing Week marketers have shown early interest in BBM’s ad offering, given its reach of 85 million monthly active users and the “trackability” its measurement team provides.

He added: “Facebook and Twitter have done a good job of pivoting into mobile and driving investment into mobile but by no means does this world have enough native mobile social inventory to buy just yet. It’s certainly not exhausted and marketers want more.

“Marketers look at the scale of our audience – 65 per cent of our users are daily active users – and marketers are definitely interested in that reach. By no means are we done at 85 million, we will grow. And it’s worth bearing in mind that there are places in the world where there are more BBM users than Facebook or Twitter users.”

Marketing Week: BlackBerry launched BBM Channels that allows brands to create their own channel, similar to a Twitter profile or Facebook page, last year. This year you started testing advertising on the service. Can you provide more detail as to what stage that trial is at?

David Proulx: The global trial is still gradual over the coming months. Advertising uses the native first party inventory of BBM and comes in three formats: featured channels, sponsored posts and sponsored invites. It speaks to the very fabric of BBM and with formats like invites we’ve been very selective over the frequency and types of brands that can participate.

We are providing a robust solution to track outcomes such as app downloads as part of our initial offer. We also offer data on the ongoing CRM relationship with that channel [after a user saw an ad], particularly looking at things like the time it took for someone to read a post.

More broadly, there’s a great opportunity in the realm of traditional marketers, such as automotive and consumer packaged goods, to look at sponsored content to formats that direct to a microsite or a video. We will also look to partner [with a research company] as everyone is looking for that second factor value.

MW: How effective is advertising with BBM compared with other digital advertising channels?

DP: We have more than 500,000 Channels on BBM and that content gets syndicated to a users’ updates, which is the second most visited destination on the app after chats.

We’re not publishing any engagement rates this year but we know across the industry that native performs better than standard banners and display, and we are seeing that borne out.

Mobile, social and native are the three bywords for marketing this year, and all of those are in BBM.

MW: What types of advertisers are trialling BBM ads?

DP: We’re testing with a small set of key parnters to make sure we get it right. At the moment we are focusing on performance, mobile-focused advertisers that already spend prolifically on mobile and also traditional advertisers.

Those in that second class are finding mobile is producing dubious results at the moment in terms of attribution and results, their question at the moment is: “is that good, or not?”.

We’re taking an FMCG brand as an example, which has invested in a BBM Channel like a native app for all its brands. The BBM Channel offers an opportunity to create a brand inbox on the device, with the ability to have a direct one to one conversation.

MW: Blackberry has also started exploring rolling out payment functionality into the BBM app, can you tell us more?

DP: We are looking at the notion of payments. We rolled out a commercial trial in Indonesia [in 2012] that is helping us test the waters and understand consumer appetite for BBM payments.

It is an interesting opportunity because the engagement with mobile is disproportionately inside messaging apps. When you look at things like peer-to-peer payments, the relationship between two people is already established and the context of the transaction is already established. So rather than a financial services provider forcing them to create a presence on their phone, the experience could logically fit in BBM.

The challenge for anyone in the payments and banking industries is that user acquisition funnel on mobile and having to deploy it across all operating systems. A partner needs to accept that the mobile use case is different than other delivery channels and understand there’s a great opportunity in messages: we are very open to conversations [from payments providers].

I’m not demonstrating a want to be a bank, but we see there’s a great melding between mobile and financial experiences. Peer to peer payment is the simplest to conceptualise but I can see a value attached to the application of a service where users could buy something in a shop and make a transaction.

I’m not pegging a specific time frame on when these services might launch as I don’t want to be presumptive right now.