21 March 2019
Some WeChat users were sent the BMW ad (left); others got an ad from Coca-Cola. Photo: Techinasia
Some WeChat users were sent the BMW ad (left); others got an ad from Coca-Cola. Photo: Techinasia

WeChat users beef about not being sent BMW ads

Targeted ads are a pain for most social network users.

In China, however, they are an object of desire, the Financial Times reported.

Users of top Chinese social media app WeChat who were left out of an ad campaign for luxury carmaker BMW protested this week against “discrimination”.

“I’ve been refreshing over and over again, but still no BMW ad … today my spirits are in the dumps,” one WeChatter posted. “Do I not even qualify to see the BMW ads?”

This is the first time Shenzhen-based internet giant Tencent Holding Ltd. (00700.HK) has tried to make money from WeChat, which boasts 468 million users.

WeChat users noticed one of three ads had popped up in their feeds Sunday. One group was shown the BMW ad. Others got an ad from mobile-phone firm Vivo or, most humiliatingly, from Coca-Cola.

“Even Tencent has discovered that I can only afford Coke and that I’ll never in my life drive a BMW,” one WeChatter with the screen name Charles III moaned.

The Coca-Cola crowd began to refer to themselves jokingly as “diao” (losers), while the select few gleefully posted screenshots of the BMW ad, the newspaper said.

Theories emerged about the criteria used to target the ads — some said Apple IOS users received the most BMW ads; others were that the ad was sent only to users aged 19-50 and in top-tier cities or to those who had spent at least a certain amount in mobile payments.

One rumor was that the targeting algorithm judges users on how good-looking and successful they are, based on their profile pictures and who their contacts are.

“I know some people who were genuinely wounded when they didn’t get the BMW ads,” said Xin Haiguang, a technology blogger. He said WeChat had exploited the status anxiety of the Chinese. 

“I’m a nouveau riche in a top-tier city using an Apple [iPhone] 6 Plus, and I didn’t receive the BMW ads,” a WeChatter with the screen name Vashin said. “So I’m going to buy a Mercedes.”

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