LinkedIn disables Sponsored Messages in Europe – What LinkedIn advertisers need to know

Update: LinkedIn Sponsored Messages af of 12 January 2022

If you’re already familiar with Sponsored Messages you know that these remain in your target audience’s inbox even after you have paused a campaign. This made it possible to generate leads from old messages, when a user would revisit your Message Ad and visit your website or fill in a lead form.

Today, Wednesday 12 January, we noticed that our campaigns targeting EU users are still converting. Teaching us that already delivered Message Ads and Conversation Ads to EU users are still present in their inbox. Lead gen forms are also still functional. Explaining why even disabled campaigns can still bring in new leads the coming days or even weeks.

Update: LinkedIn Sponsored Messages as of 10 January 2022

Today as of writing it’s 11 January, the day LinkedIn planned to disable all running campaigns that use Sponsored Messages or Conversation Ads to target European users.

While we managed to keep publishing new campaigns up until this point, as of today we received the notification on all our ad accounts that Message Ads and Conversation Ads are no longer being delivered to EU users.

The shut down for Sponsored Messages in the EU happened a day later than planned in our accounts, with some campaigns still spending their regular ad budget even of 11 January. Yet now they all show a little notification saying “EU targeting”. Clicking it reveals some extra information on the note, but nothing more than the email we all received on Friday, 10 December first notifying us of the upcoming changes to Message Ads.

Funnily enough our UK campaigns are still delivering as expected without any notification or required actions to take. Most likely due to the UK’s recent departure from the EU, causing it to no longer fall under EU GDPR laws. This may soften the blow a little if the UK was in your list of targeted countries.

For now we’re still waiting on extra information from LinkedIn on what their upcoming changes are and when we might see a return for Sponsored Messages in the EU.

Edit: Recent Marketing API Changes

After doing some more digging we stumbled upon this Marketing API Changes article by Microsoft, which also talks about the update to Sponsored Messages. Our suspicions that these changes were about privacy, and more precisely GDPR, are being confirmed in this document. With the document stating that:

“We [LinkedIn/Microsoft] are stopping the display of Message and Conversations Ads to EU members effective starting January 10, 2022 for new and existing campaigns. New and existing Message or Conversation Ads campaigns targeting EU members will fail with a 400 error. This only affects targeting members based in the EU. Targeting members outside the EU are not impacted.”

The API Changes document also links to 2 articles written by Abhishek Shrivastava, Senior Director Product at LinkedIn, talking about How LinkedIn is Helping B2B Marketers in a Changing Privacy Landscape and 3 Big B2B Problems That Professional Identity Can Help Solve.

Update: LinkedIn Sponsored Messages as of 15 December 2021

Today as of writing it’s 15 December, the planned day for Sponsored Messages to be disabled for new campaigns targeting the EU.

Of course we did some testing today at Root Agency, as well as closely monitor our clients accounts.

When setting up a test campaign targeting Belgian users we managed to get a conversation ad approved without any trouble. It was approved after a 2 hour wait. So it seems that Sponsored Messages are still available in new campaigns for now.

Existing campaigns of our clients are also still delivering messaging into the audience’s Inbox. Below is a screenshot of one of our clients’ accounts that delivered just over 800 messages on 15 December. The same amount of messages they get in all of their campaigns.

What are LinkedIn Sponsored Messages?

Sponsored Messages is a category in the ad formats used in the LinkedIn Ads Manager. In this category you can use Message Ads and Conversation Ads.

Message Ads are messages that are delivered right into the LinkedIn Messaging Inbox of your target audience. What makes this ad format so powerful is the amount of attention it grabs from your audience. They only receive Message Ads when they are online. The Message Ads also remains in your target audience’s Inbox. That way they can go back to your Message Ad and convert at a later date, without it costing you ad budget for another impression. That’s because Message Ads are charged on a pay-per-message basis.

Conversation Ads are like Message Ads. Also being delivered straight into your target audiences LinkedIn Inbox when they are online. A Conversation Ad will remain in
The big difference between Conversation Ads and Message Ads is the possibility to create a flow, or small chatbot that goes 5 levels deep. They take longer to set up, but give you the possibility to add multiple levels of messages, lead forms and call-to-action buttons leading your target audience to your website, landing page or a video.

Sponsored Messages differentiate themselves from other ad formats due to their high CTR, 90%+ in most of Root Agency’s campaigns, and the high amount of leads and conversion rates. We’ve seen conversion rates of up to 9,5% based on all opened messages when sending Conversation Ads to cold audiences, which honestly is insane compared to almost any other form of advertising. In our experience CPA’s range from €1,34 up to around €40, with the largest part of leads costing about €22. Conversion are either scheduled demo’s or gated content like whitepapers and case studies.

Updates to LinkedIn Sponsored Messaging: Display of Sponsored Messages to European Union Members gets suspended

If you’re like me you fell off your chair on Friday, 10 December. Around midnight I received an email from LinkedIn titled “Updates to LinkedIn Sponsored Messaging”. The email, whcih you can read below, starts promising. The Lead Product Manager announces exciting new messaging features for Sponsored Messages coming in 2022. Right after we read that from 15 December onwards, only 5 days after receiving the emails, LinkedIn advertisers won’t be able to target European audiences anymore using Sponsored Messages. Because there was no information about this update, and the huge impact it has on European advertisers, available on LinkedIn’s website, support centre or FAQ I decided to write this blog post.

Why is LinkedIn removing the Sponsored Messaging feature for European Audiences?

The email states that LinkedIn is removing this feature due to evolving legal landscape. No further details are given, but it’s a safe bet to make that this has to do with the GDPR. A similar thing happened to Facebook last year, when now Meta had to disable Facebook and Instagram features for European users. It’s a guess but we believe that LinkedIn has some technical things to figure out in their back-end to make Sponsored Messaging fully GDPR compliant.

Somehow we find this odd as LinkedIn users have the option to opt-out of Sponsored Messages. But we’re not back-end experts on LinkedIn’s systems, so who knows what exactly is going on behind the scenes.

Are LinkedIn Message Ads affected by the Sponsored Messaging update?

Yes. As Message Ads belong in the “Sponsored Messages” ad format they will be affected by this update. Starting December 15 you won’t be able to create new Message Ads that target European audiences. From January 10 2022 onwards your existing campaigns will be suspended automatically. Don’t confuse Message Ads with InMails though. InMails will remain available. The Message Ads are the messages available in the LinkedIn Ads Manager.

Are LinkedIn Conversation Ads affected by the Sponsored Messaging update?

Conversation Ads are slightly different than Message Ads in what you can do with them technically. Sadly they also fall under the “Sponsored Messages” ad format. As such starting 15 December Conversation Ads will no longer be an option for new campaigns targeting European audiences. From January 10 2022 onwards your existing campaigns using Conversation Ads targeting European users will be suspended automatically.

Can EU advertisers still use Sponsored Messages on LinkedIn?

The short answer: yes.

The longer answer: yes, but as long as they target only audiences outside of the EU. This update affects targeting of EU members for everyone, even companies outside of the EU. Luckily it does not stop European businesses to target users in North-America, South-America, Asia, Africa and Australia/New-Zealand. This softens the blow a little if you target international audiences. Advertisers that used Sponsored Messages solely on European audiences will have to look for now ways to run their campaigns.

Will Sponsored Messages come back for European users?

For now we can only hope so. If this is anything like what happened on Facebook and Instagram in 2020 then Sponsored Messages should be coming back in the near future. But for now we advice you to change your digital marketing strategy if Sponsored Messages, both Message Ads and Conversation Ads, played any part in it.

We will update this blog post when more information becomes available. The last update was on December 15, 2021.

What do I do now that Sponsored Messages are being disabled?

For one: don’t wait too long. We know it’s tempting to just keep your Conversation Ads & Message Ads running, but we strongly advice against this in the long run. It’s better to avoid surprises and plan ahead.

Make sure that your campaigns are either paused or have EU countries removed if you target an international audience. Any campaigns targeting EU citizens will be suspended. For now we don’t know if only your campaign will be paused or if this will have an impact on your entire account and it’s repuation. So better change things up before January 10 2022!

In a couple of days, on December 15, you won’t be able to create any new Sponsored Messaging campaigns targeting Europe. So get together with your marketing team or agency and start brainstorming how you will replace your Messaging campaigns.

Here’s some tips on how Root Agency is responding to this situation for their client accounts:

  1. Swallow the bitter pill and disable your Sponsored Messages campaigns targeting EU audiences.
  2. Allocate budget from your Sponsored Message campaigns to other campaigns.
  3. Start an awareness campaign with video, then retarget people who watched the video with conversion focused ads.
  4. Take the opportunity to update your website & landing pages. Start website visit campaigns and retarget website visitors with conversion focused ads in the newsfeed.
  5. Expand your digital marketing strategy to other channels. Look into Google Ads and don’t underestimate the power of Facebook Ads. Even professional people are on Facebook and Instagram.
  6. Work on your brand and your organic content to establish thought leadership in your industry.