Whisper, the secret-sharing anonymous app, is hoping brands will start paying it some attention (and some dollars.)
The Venice, California-based free app lets users post anonymous “whispers” and pick backgrounds and fonts to go along with them. Users can also see a list of popular “whispers” and reply to them, either publicly or privately. The idea is to promote anonymous sharing while supporting private communications — Whisper was part of a wave of apps like Secret (since shut down) and Snapchat that did something similar. For some, the anonymity baked into the apps was liberating from the Facebook forced-real identity hegemony; others wrung their hands over bullying, rumor-mongering and other downsides to anonymity.
To date, the app has run 10 campaigns with brands including Fox, MTV, FX and Sundance. Business development and marketing lead Jay Rockman said the app’s pitch to brands is a differentiated native experience that isn’t disruptive for users but has value for advertisers.
There are two ad products. The first is a branded background option: Brands can buy keywords, and when users use them in posts, they’re presented with the option to overlay their Whisper over a branded background. (For Fox’s “Poltergeist” movie, the keyword was “fear.”) “Tens of thousands” of people opted in to the ad, said Rockman. The second product is sponsored Whispers — brands can post a question, like “what is your greatest fear?” that appears in user feeds.
Brands have also been using the content users create in response to their questions for other purposes. A campaign MTV is running for its show, “Virgin Territory” asked viewers to go on Whisper to share stories, then used those Whispers as part of on-screen ads. “It’s an engagement loop,” said Rockman.
The app now claims to have 10 million monthly active users and has $61 million in funding to date. The user demographic skews young, between 16 and 28 years old, and 60 percent female. What sets it apart is that its users are spread across America and not centered in urban areas, which is attractive to brands, Rockman said.
But the content on Whisper, just like Secret and other anonymous apps, can be problematic. For example, there are posts about teachers confessing about moonlighting as strippers, confessions about cheating on spouses, drug use and so on. Entertainment brands are currently popular on the app — which makes sense since their products have shorter shelf lives — although Rockman said he has spoken to brands across industries.
“Whisper and anonymous social apps in general hold promise but also peril for brands,” said Noah Mallin, head of social at MEC North America. “It’s not quite substantial enough in terms of audience to be the hub of an activation, though that may change.” The risk is being adjacent to or associated with content that could be considered “off-color,” said Mallin.
That’s not the only issue for Whisper. Last Fall, it ran into some trouble when the Guardian wrote a story about Whisper’s privacy problems — namely, that it was breaking its own rules on privacy. The publisher eventually retracted and corrected the claims. The app said that privacy issues have not been a concern for brands.
Rockman says the “content” approach, where publishers used Whisper to create news stories, is still part of Whisper’s “multipronged” approach toward making money. Whisper had last year hired Gawker writer Neetzan Zimmerman as editor-in-chief in the hopes of turning Whisper into a news source — he quit in January after the Guardian news. Asked if it had plans to replace him, Whisper said it wasn’t commenting on personnel news. The app continues to have unofficial and official partnerships with publishers including the Daily Mail and BuzzFeed, a Whisper spokeswoman said.
Mallin said that there is promise in Whisper for brands that want to reach consumers who don’t always “feel heard.” So, sponsoring an anonymous forum within Whisper could be a way to connect and show affinity for certain groups, like single parents. “There still needs to be a high tolerance for content and posts that may not fit the standard definition of ‘brand safe’ for most advertisers.”
Why companies like iHeartMedia, NBCU rely on homegrown IP to build metaverse engagements
The success of recent brand activations is evidence that media and entertainment brands are the companies best equipped to build metaverse spaces that can dodge online skepticism, thanks to their wealth of owned IP.
How sunglasses brand Quay retooled its advertising to be less reliant on performance marketing following iOS changes
Prior to the iOS changes, Quay was spending the majority of its ad dollars on performance marketing tactics and influencer marketing.
What beauty brand Fenty can gain from Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show
Following a roughly six-year hiatus from music, Rihanna is returning to headline the NFL Super Bowl halftime show. The residual effects for her Fenty brand will be paramount.
SponsoredHow FAST channels are redefining primetime opportunities for advertisers
Sponsored by Vevo With the competition from content providers continuing to build, the traditional primetime TV slots are no longer guaranteeing the mass audiences they once did. Television viewership is evolving, and the primetime window of 8–11 p.m. is less broadly reflective of younger audiences’ content consumption habits. In 2022, attracting TV viewers is a […]
As destination travel takes off, the ‘Big Easy’ is experimenting with AR/VR to draw visitors
As travel, and travel tourism, return to pre-pandemic levels, New Orleans is leveraging AR/VR technology marketing to stand out and capture more traveler attention.
Member ExclusiveDigiday+ Research: Brands and agencies agree they are confident in Google, but differ on ad spend
Digiday surveyed 90 brand and agency professionals in the third quarter to find out how their marketing spend lines up with their confidence that Google drives success as a marketing channel.