Meta’s new subscription model in the European Union (EU)

By Casey Ross, Director of Social Media Strategy, FCB Health New York

Starting in November 2023, Meta will offer people in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland the choice to pay a monthly subscription to use Facebook and Instagram without any ads. They can alternatively continue to use these services for free while seeing ads that are relevant to them. ​

Why are they doing this, and will it impact the user experience?

Meta is responding to evolving European regulations by granting users in the EU, EEA, and Switzerland the freedom to decide how they engage with Facebook and Instagram. ​

According to Meta, the choice to sign up for an ad-free subscription is considered a "legitimate form of agreement" and effectively addresses the demands of European regulators.​

The move comes after Meta was fined over $400 million by the Irish Data Protection Commission earlier this year for not complying with the EU’s GDPR. Meta unsuccessfully challenged the fine with the court saying Meta's platforms, required users to agree to the terms of service, including the use of their data for targeted ads.​

To access the ad-free version of Facebook and Instagram, users can subscribe for €9.99 ($11) per month on the web or €12.99 ($14) per month on iOS and Android. This fee will cover one connected account.​

Starting on March 1, 2024, an additional €6 per month on the web and €8 per month on apps will apply for a user’s additional accounts.​

If users choose not to subscribe, their experience will remain unchanged.​

How will this impact advertisers?

  • Advertisers in Europe can continue to run personalized campaigns to users who will continue to access their platforms for free. ​
  • The ad-free subscription option is accessible for users 18+, allowing them to pay for an uninterrupted experience while also respecting their privacy and preferences.​
  • For users who are under 18 years old, Meta is exploring ways to provide a “responsible” ad experience.​
  • For users who don’t choose to subscribe, Meta says they are “dedicated to investing in innovative tools” that balance between granting them more control over their ad experience and ensuring the value for both users and businesses remains intact.

Final thoughts

While Meta's decision aligns with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements, it also serves as a valuable testing ground. This shift not only addresses regulatory compliance but also offers Meta an opportunity to explore new revenue streams, potentially reducing its reliance on advertising revenue.​

The transition towards paid subscriptions is gaining momentum, with platforms like Snap, X, YouTube, and LinkedIn already embracing this model and TikTok is testing an ad free subscription as well. Some platforms provide added features, while others promise an ad-free experience. ​

One potential method to break into an ad-free environment is through collaboration with influencers and creators. Personally, as a subscriber to YouTube Premium for an ad-free experience, I frequently see ads seamlessly integrated into content through influencer and creator partnerships. If this trend extends to Meta, it offers advertisers an opportunity to get their messages in front of audiences.