What’s Up With WhatsApp’s Anti-Texting Ad Campaign?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and poking around CNN’s website, when I came across this piece by Rishi Iyengar.

Why WhatsApp wants to convince Americans to stop sending text messages

(CNN Business) – Since the start of this year, a series of advertisements have appeared on television screens and billboards across the United States, with ominous warnings to texters.

“I think I left the car unlocked, can you check?” reads a text message displayed on one of the billboards. The consequence, outlined next to the text bubble: “If your personal texts aren’t end-to-end encrypted, it’s not private.”

In a TV commercial, a mailman hands already-opened letters and packages to outraged recipients, before telling them that “every text you send is just as open as your letters.”

Those warnings are courtesy of WhatsApp, the mobile messaging service acquired by Facebookin 2014. While WhatsApp has grown into a formidable force since then, used by more than a quarter of the world’s population, the platform’s reach in its home market remains comparatively small.

So, whaddaya think, Doc – can people really be detexed from a longstanding addiction?

– WhatsAppening?

Dear WhatsAppening,

Here’s the thing.

According to the CNN piece, WhatsApp has fewer than 63 million users in the United States (versus 324 million Facebook users and 123 million Instagram users).

For those of you keeping score at home, “India alone has nearly 500 million WhatsApp users according to eMarketer, which is more than a third of its population and over half its internet user base,” per CNN.

Even more anemic than WhatsApp’s user numbers, however, are the messaging service’s revenue figures, according to Business of Apps.

Five and a half billion dollars is lunch money compared to Facebook’s 2021 revenue of $117 billion and Instagram’s $24 billion.

Thus, a series of TV spots like this one..

All this comes at a time when Facebook looks to be fading, as Tom Jarvis wrote last month at The Drum Network: “Recent news that Facebook’s user growth has slumped for the first time in 18 years has wiped 20% off parent company Meta’s share price (a drop in value of $175bn).”

Instagram’s numbers are also in freefall.

So now the empire of Mark (Data) Suckerberg looks to the Great Whats Hope to bail it out, as the CNN Business piece noted.

While apps such as Facebook and Instagram are already widely used in the United States and don’t have much room to grow, the potential for WhatsApp is much larger. The messaging app cost Facebook $19 billion almost a decade ago but generates little revenue. Meta is now trying to change that.

Boosting WhatsApp in the United States could have positive ripple effects on its other platforms and create new monetization opportunities in a lucrative market. But to get there, WhatsApp must fight an uphill battle to change how Americans text and, perhaps, how they view WhatsApp’s parent company.

No doubt that’s just what WhatsApp hopes its ad campaign will deliver.

Has Bryan Cranston’s TV Spot Turned Mountain Dew Into Mountain Don’t?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There are tons of A-list celebrities touting products in television commercials these days, as Boston Globe critic Don Aucoin noted yesterday.

Among those singled out by Aucoin is Bryan Cranston.

Bryan Cranston is indisputably one of the greatest dramatic actors of our time. But if Cranston was going to do a Mountain Dew commercial spoofing Jack Nicholson’s ax-wielding “Heeeere’s Johnny!’’ scene from “The Shining,” couldn’t he have at least insisted the writers come up with a better punchline than “Heeere’s Mountain Dew Zero!’’

What do you think, Doc? Bryan Cranston – drama hero to Mountain Dew zero?

– Mountain Doh!

Dear Doh!,

Let’s start by looking at the TV spot in question.



No doubt the whole thing is an example of Buckraking Bad. But has it been good for Mountain Dew sales? Not so much, according to Statista’s M. Ridder.

Market share of the Mountain Dew brand in the U.S. 2004-2020

In 2020, the market share of the Mountain Dew brand in the U.S. amounted to just under seven percent. Over the past decade and a half, the brand’s share has remained between six and seven percent.

So Heeeere’s Bryan! has not exactly broken down the doors at retail.

Glad you axed, though.