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  • Brian Young

What You Need to Know About Engagement Ads

Advertising firms and brands are having a hard time grasping how to reach and engage Millennials and Generation Z on new media. Nowhere is this more apparent than engagement ads.

In 2008, Facebook created ads that gave a voice to Millennials and GenZ consumers. Ads transitioned from outward-only communication to a place for consumers to ask questions, voice complaints, or praise a company’s product. Facebook created a new standard in which an advertisement could facilitate a two-way conversation between consumers and brands, and now almost every new media platform uses some variation of the engagement ad.

Although engagement ads have been around for nearly ten years, conversations and engagement advertising is still a new frontier for most ad agencies, brands, and marketing firms. Traditional media like billboards, radio, television, and print do not facilitate consumer brand conversations, and after the media was bought, firms did not have to maintain the ad.

That is all changed now. Advertisements on new media need attention for the duration of their campaign lifetime. Every user comment on an engagement ad expects a response, and brands need to communicate with their customers to gain brand trust.

Case Study: Waze

Waze is a navigation app that offers live information on traffic conditions with the power to continuously update users with the fastest route.

Recently, Waze has made a big push to sell advertising on their platform, but comments on their engagement ads have gone untouched since their campaign started last month.

Waze is a brand that arrived after the new media boom, and its app sees high use by Millennials and GenZ. On its ad, there’s a comment about a liquor store, and another about Google Adsense integration, that have sat for over a week.

It is likely that Waze farmed out this media buy to a firm that did not understand the responsibility they inherited when choosing to run engagement ads. Because Waze neglected to engage with users, it may have lost potential future customers. More than that, it is creating a perception that Waze is deaf to voices of its clients.

This ad can be salvaged. If Waze hops in now, they can still reply to their engaged users. In the future, when they buy engagement media, they should assign a team to monitor and reply to the ads.

Case Study: Mercedes-Benz Vans

Mercedes-Benz was running a competition for a free van, and they used Facebook engagement ads to increase awareness of the offer. One look at the comment section and it is clear Mercedes understood the responsibility of engagement ads and had members of their public relations team monitoring the campaign.

George Rink engaged the ad with a complaint and Mercedes responded in about 30 minutes. Mercedes took an extra step and more than engaged, they replied to George with historical context. This means they likely use a new media management system like Sprout Social to track their past interactions with George and other customers. However, the best part of this engagement is William, who steps in after Mercedes and reinforces a positive brand perception.

Mercedes continued to respond and engage their community throughout the comments, contributing to the conversation that Millennials and GenZ expect.

Case Study: Wells Fargo

It needs to be noted that engagement ads are not right for every brand. If your brand has a widespread negative perception, engagement ads create a powerful attack surface for consumers to vent their frustrations. Wells Fargo is known to have opened 3.5 million fake accounts much to the anger of their customers. In the wake of this public relations disaster, they have taken to Facebook to get the word out about the positive aspects of their brand.

Customers attacked the ad en masse. Wells Fargo’s public relations team worked hard to address each complaint, but they could not keep up. Before Wells Fargo killed the ad, over 751,000 people viewed the frustration of former and current customers.

While Wells Fargo had good intentions, the comments on their ad were filled with anger directed at the brand. If Wells Fargo was looking to change brand perceptions, they could have used other options, like a Reddit “ask me anything,” to a share how they plan to change and earn back the trust of their customers.

Replying to Engagement Ads is Time Consuming

At this time, Facebook does not alert you when someone engages an ad. Worse than that, after purchasing the ad from Facebook it takes a minimum of five non-intuitive clicks in Facebook Power Editor to search for and reply to customer engagements.

Engagement ad management is where tools like Sprout Social shine, Sprout fills the management void and aggregates ad engagements onto a single page. These types of tools will save your marketing team time and energy when engaging with customers through ads.


Engagement ads have become the status quo for new media advertising. With that, brands need to make responding to the conversation theses ads generate a priority. Millennials and Generation Z have come to expect an open and authentic conversation with the brands they consume. In short, ignoring an ad engagement is ignoring a customer. It is important for every marketing firm and department to incorporate public relations into the lifespan of engagement ad campaigns. Marketers must adapt to meet the exceptions of Millennial and GenZ consumers.

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