New Advertising Functionality in WeChat Moments

Case studies and challenges

According to Tencent’s Q2 2017 financial reporting, its income from social media advertising increased 61% YoY to 6 billon RMB, mainly from ads on WeChat Moments and WeChat Official Accounts. WeChat first launched ads on its Moments platform on 25th Jan 2015, with BMW, Vivo and Coca Cola all placing ads there. It was a big topic on Chinese social media at that time because many users believed that the algorithms which determined which ads they saw were based on their online behaviour and their WeChat connections. In response, some of the users who saw BMW ads on their WeChat Moments reposted these ads to show that WeChat categorised them as wealthy individuals or as persons with higher social status. It was a successful PR exercise to start with and attracted many other brands from various industries, such as Porsche, Lancôme, Nike, KFC, Disney Hong Kong and Australia Tourism. At the beginning, the WeChat Moments ads (WM ads) only supported the display of text messages with several pictures. Now, two and a half years later, what is the state of things in September 2017?

Today, the WM ad format has dramatically evolved from its earlier and admittedly somewhat primitive incarnations to become more interactive between advertisers and users. It also looks much more sophisticated with better HTML5 visual effects and more informative thanks to a larger display area. In addition to this, with better Location Based Service (LBS) technology, WM ads also able to better geo-target users and provide advertising for local businesses. With the ecosystem: WeChat Pay, WeChat Sport, WeChat Wallet and WeChat Voucher, advertisers now have the ability to better track advertising ROI in a closed loop which makes it unique to other social media advertising platforms like Facebook / Twitter or search engine advertising platforms like those provided by Google and Baidu.

Seven of the Most Recent WeChat Moments Ads

Below are seven examples of the latest WM ad formats that allow advertisers to be have more room and functionality and to create ads that are attractive, innovative and encourage more interactions between users and between users and advertisers. It is this interactive functionality that arguably forms the basis for a successful social media Ad. Porsche showed how fancy a WM ad can be. Four lipstick brands used WM ads to boost their brand awareness and sales during different festivals and occasions. SanYuan yoghourt stimulated its brand value with WeChat Sport with a WM ad designed to boost interaction, reposting and ad spread. Wang Steak, a premium restaurant launched a mini movie WM ad as an extension of a currently popular TV show episode, and thereby managed to expand their consumer base and target younger generation consumers.

  • New car models from Porsche: This ad contains an auto play video, full screen size HTML5 display page and uses mobile’s gyroscope motion sensors to show different views of the cars. This new ‘card’ format in WeChat allows 10 times loading speed than other online video formats.


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WeChat tips = Apple’s In-App Purchase?

Real stories behind two sides of the equation

What happened?

Here is a scenario: Imagine you are paying a bill in a restaurant for food and drink you’ve consumed and you would want to tip the waiting staff for their excellent service. A council official walks in and asks the restaurant to pay 30% of all revenue as the fee for being allowed to do business, but also wants to take 30% of all tips given. The restaurant’s manager is horrified and starts to explain that he never touches any of the waiting staff’s tips and is incensed that the official is asking the waiting staff to hand over 30% of everything they earn from tips. The council official responds ‘those are the rules, and the council gets 30% any earnings from any business activities taking place in this district.’ The waiter has no choice because the restaurant has no choice. He must either hand over 30% of his tips or leave.

Let’s see who is who in this scenario when you look at it from the perspective of the WeChat platform:

The council official = Apple

The district = Apple App store

The restaurant = WeChat

The waiter = WeChat’s official account content creator

On April 19, 2017, Apple asked WeChat to disable its tipping function, by means of which WeChat users can tip WeChat official account content creators and emoji designers AFTER they have read the content creator’s articles or after using the designer’s emojis. Tipping is a way of indicating that users think the content creators and emoji designers have done a good job or of showing that they agree with the content creator’s opinion. It’s also a way to encourage content creators to write more good articles in future. Overnight, WeChat updated its iOS version and revised the tip function so that instead of direct tipping, users can scan a QR code and transfer funds to content creators and emoji designers directly. Apple’s response? Very shortly after that Apple replied that the scan and transfer functionality still constitute a violation of its App store’s guidelines. In the early morning of April 20th, WeChat announced that it would completely disable the tipping function on iOS versions of its app.

A month later, Apple contacted WeChat and many other social app providers instructing them to either disable all tipping functions or change them to IAP (In-App Purchases). The implications of this is that if any app providers would like to enable tipping functions, they have to do so via the IAP channel and Apply Pay, from which Apple will charge a 30% transaction fee. Any app providers that refuse to comply run the risk of having their apps taken down from Apple’s App store.

Is this really an argument about whether tipping should be treated the same as an IAP?

So what are Apple’s terms? Is this ‘industry standard’ for all App stores?

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WeChat Search is here

a new search engine with 938 million MAU ?

In the new iOS update (version 6.5.8 released May 18th 2017), WeChat has released a new function: ‘WeChat Labs’, which allows users to enable some provisional test functions, although WeChat reserves the right to withdraw these functions at any time.

The first two test functions are ‘Top Stories’ and ‘Search’. After users enable these functions, they will appear under the ‘Discover’ tab.


In reality these are not completely new functions, but are in fact only new ‘gateways’ that provide easier and faster access to existing WeChat services.

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