No plans for ads on WhatsApp, Meta says

Meta on Friday disputed a media report that claimed the social giant was exploring bringing ads to the popular messaging app WhatsApp.

Financial Times earlier reported that some teams at Meta had evaluated whether to show ads in lists of conversations with contacts on the WhatsApp home screen. In a statement, WhatsApp said it was neither testing nor working on it, nor did it have any plans around it.

Analysts have long speculated that Meta will eventually bring ads to WhatsApp as the social conglomerate explores ways to monetize the service, which is used daily by more than 2 billion people around the globe. Instagram, Meta’s relatively much cheaper acquisition, has made deeper inroads with monetization.

But Meta has so far resisted the idea of showing ads on the WhatsApp app, instead relying on making money via WhatsApp Business, an offering aimed at merchants that requires them to pay for certain services. WhatsApp Business has amassed over 200 million monthly active users.

Meta in February announced changes to the pricing structure and messaging categories on WhatsApp Business in a move aimed at increasing revenue. These categories included utility, authentication (to send one-time passcodes), marketing and user-initiated service conversations.

Last year, during the company’s Q3 earnings call, Zuckerberg noted that “click-to-WhatsApp” ads reached the annual revenue run rate of $1.5 billion with 80% year-on-year growth. The company has been planning to introduce a personalized messages model for merchants soon.

It’s also facilitating peer-to-peer and customer-to-merchant payments in countries like India, Brazil and Singapore. In May, the company said it is exploring ways to integrate payments into its broadcasting feature Channels, which was launched globally earlier this week.

“With WhatsApp Business users reaching 200M MAU, and GenAI customer service tools being tested out, Meta appears to be taking steps towards monetizing the 2Bn+ active users on WhatsApp. Click to Message is already running at a 10B+ revenue run rate while training both the users and businesses to interact within WhatsApp,” analysts at AllianceBernstein wrote in a recent note to clients.

In the past decade, WhatsApp has mulled showing ads in places like WhatsApp Status a few times, but as The Wall Street Journal reported in 2020, those plans have always been scrapped.