WhatsApp Send Their Message, But Is It Received?

Under the spotlight this week is WhatsApp’s campaign ‘Message Privately’. A response to the backlash over privacy on the chat app earlier this year, the execution by BBDO focuses on how users’ messages are protected. With two billion plus global users, this was no easy brief and our analysis suggests there’s more work to do to get this message across.

One of three films, ‘Double Date’ is set in a restaurant with two couples, where one duo dominate the conversation as the other steal embarrassed glances at each other. The ad taps into the irresistible urge to exchange meaningful expressions with co-conspirators when someone is being boring, annoying – or worse.

But how does it perform with the audience? It scored a modest, category-average performance on our brand-building Star Rating metric, at 2.2-Stars. Our Spike Rating, which relates to short-term potential, also scores Low. On Brand Fluency, Double Date falls well below the category average despite the use of the WhatsApp notification alert sound, which could become a sonic device over time. But we at System1 know this is to be expected and a particular challenge for most brands new to TV advertising. We see the Brand Recognition building gradually during the film, culminating in a high on the final frame where the message and logo are particularly prominent.

Second-by-second analysis of viewers emotional responses to the film underlines just how hard a brief this was. Most of the audience did not connect emotionally, with neutrality dominating throughout the ad, and there was an increase in negative emotions towards the end. The negativity begins to set in as we see the characters giving each other knowing glances and checking messages under the table. This execution may have benefitted with some subtle changes to better engage the audience without creating negative emotion. Rather than reassuring, the storyline appears to many to be a little sneaky and dishonest, prompting questions from viewers. As messages are sent and read under the dinner table, the emotions ‘Contempt’, ‘Disgust’, ‘Anger’ and ‘Sadness’ appear in our FaceTrace™ analysis. Looking at the reasons for these emotional responses, they include negative feelings about Facebook, encryption, and messaging during a social occasion. Others were simply confused, with absolutely no idea what the ad was about.

How do you deliver clarity on a complex issue in such a short execution? With so many people having a relationship with the global brand, this is a campaign that would have benefitted from early testing and tweaking to ensure the right emotions and messaging were landing more effectively.

Hopefully the other two films within the campaign can deliver the message and engage the audience without generating negative emotion. We know brands new to TV advertising often take some time to get things right as they develop their use of fluent devices and the use of the soundtrack, in particular.

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