BlackBerry tests ads in BBM, Chats are spared but Channels are fair game

BlackBerry adds sponsored content to its BBM monetisation plan, but users can simply filter them out if they're annoying.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Having recently launching BBM stickers, BlackBerry is now testing two new sponsored content schemes that will eventually be rolled out across BBM.

Following in the footsteps of Twitter and Facebook, BlackBerry is gearing up to launch sponsored content on BBM, yesterday notifying BBM Beta Zone members that use Android devices that they will soon start seeing ads.

A screenshot of the 'Ads Experience' notification indicates BlackBerry will use sponsored invites in the Invites section of BBM and sponsored channel posts in the Updates section of BBM. 

BlackBerry's head of product and brand marketing for BBM, Jeff Gadway, took to the company's blog to explain and defend its sponsored content

"We have discussed before that we would look at promoted content opportunities for our partners, but we have been very clear that this content will be direct, relevant, friendly and will in no way impact the chat and sharing experience," Gadway wrote.

BlackBerry will roll out three main forms of advertising BBM Channels, however BBM Chats will remain sacrosanct.

"We will not be inserting sponsored content of any kind in to BBM chats with your friends, family and colleagues," Gadway wrote.

BlackBerry plans using Featured Channels as a space that BBM Channel owners can use to promote their particular Channel to the roughly 100 million BBM users it now has on Android and iOS. 

Advertisers wanting to use sponsored invites to grow their channels will be able to select the BBM users they wish to invite based on characteristics like age, location and interests.

"These invites will appear in the invites tab of BBM, clearly marked as sponsored invites," Gadway said.

If the user accepts an invite they're subscribed to that channel. If a person declines, they won't receive further invites from that channel. Gadway said it will limit the number of invites each person gets to three per month.

Ad partners will also be able to place sponsored posts that appear alongside updates from a person's own BBM Contacts and the Channels they've already subscribed to. Again, they'll be clearly marked as sponsored.

Users can also block channel owners from presenting sponsored content in their updates feeds or filter Updates so that they only show content from their own list of contacts.

The move comes as BlackBerry's CEO John Chen ramps up efforts to expand the BBM consumer user base and hopefully turn its app into a profitable unit that rivals the messaging startups it joined when it extended BBM to iOS, Android and Nokia's X devices.  

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