WeChat Leverages Celebrity Halo Effect to Increase Ad Engagement

Singer Jackson Wang invites you to join his car ride; actress Liu Tao wishes you a Happy Chinese New Year; singer and actor Lu Han sends you a red envelope. Since February, many WeChat users have been surprised to discover these personal messages in their Moments updates, as if they had friended the stars on WeChat. But they hadn’t. Turns out that it’s just a new gimmick by WeChat to boost the visibility of Moments ads.

Posting an imitation celebrity profile that links to a company’s marketing campaign on WeChat Moments is another new form of making the ads more social. In one Moments ad for BMW, Jackson Wang invites users for a test drive. Once the user clicks the post, they are directed to the test drive sign-up page, where they also have the chance to win Jackson’s autograph or to meet him in person. According to Tencent, celebrities drive attention — the click rate for such posts has increased from 6 to 10 times.

Jackson Wang x BMW Moments Ads.

Jackson Wang x BMW Moments Ads.

Introducing WeChat Moments ads

The Moments ads is an advertising option offered by WeChat, similar to what Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter has. The ads are posted on users’ homepages, where they spend most of their time browsing their friends’ latest updates – it’s valuable real estate for advertisers.

WeChat founder Allen Zhang is known for obsessing over user experience in all strategic decisions. So, WeChat’s developers have been tasked with the challenge of designing ads that come across as natural and authentic for users.

For one, similar to Instagram, Moments ads are shown based on engagement. If a user doesn’t engage with an ad (i.e., liking, commenting, or clicking), it will disappear within 6 hours. If they engage with it, there is an increased chance that their WeChat friends will see the same ads, triggering online buzz.

In a Mercedes-Benz ad, a user swipes to see the face of a female model in the ad.

In a Mercedes-Benz ad, a user swipes to see the face of a female model in the ad.

Besides using these celebrity profiles as ads, WeChat has also introduced interactive ads, in which the user could swipe the photos or tag their friends in the comment section to draw more attention to an ad. Engagement on such interactive ads has increased 5 times, according to WeChat.

This shows WeChat’s continued investment in social ads, which has proved to be a sustainable revenue channel. In its third-quarter earnings report, Tencent’s revenue from “social and others” increased 61 percent year-on-year, which is largely attributed to revenue related to WeChat Moments and mini-programs.

ROI on WeChat Moments ads

The ads may sound attractive, but according to data provided by WeChat agency WalktheChat, WeChat Moments ads are comparatively much pricier than Tencent’s other advertising channels on a CPM basis (cost per 1,000 impressions), such as Qzone or WeChat banner ads. The minimum budget for one advertising campaign on WeChat Moments is $7,454 (RMB 50,000). Though, with all the different advertising options WeChat now offers, brands may wonder what their return on investment may be beyond exposure.

Based on the experience of running campaigns for major car brands to generate test drive leads, Jenny Chen, co-founder of WalktheChat said: “The click-through rate is higher than banner ads. But the quality of the sales lead is low.” To increase sales leads, she suggested that brands can consider running a re-targeting campaign. She also mentioned a unique advantage to Moment ads: “It’s the only format of WeChat ads to reach the WeChat users traveling overseas, or overseas residents. Brands will need to go through a special application channel to acquire this targeting tab.”


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