Brands find a backdoor to stick their ads on WhatsApp

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Companies are hoping to make their presence felt through branded GIFs and stickers on WhatsApp.

Top consumer companies such as Tinder, McDonald’s, Tide, Reebok and Zomato are finding a backdoor to advertise on WhatsApp, the most-used messaging app, through fun and quirky stickers and GIFs.

These companies hope to make their presence felt through branded GIFs and stickers that will be made available through keyboard applications that people can download, access and add stickers and GIFs to their messages.

“These formats come from the idea that communication should be informal, casual and emotionally connected.

It adds the right kind of humour to conversations. Brands need to leverage this trend. We do two to three campaigns every month on stickers and GIFs, but budgets are very small,” said Sharadh Manian, GM at digital agency SVG Media.

WhatsApp has about 350-400 million users in India with no advertising model. Its business product prohibits spread of promotional content, restricting mass distribution of brand messages.

“People in India want conversational content. If you see the student population, they talk in stickers. It is an entry for brands into WhatsApp as it does not allow advertising yet. Being part of daily conversations improves brand positioning,” said Ankit Prasad, founder of Bobble AI, a keyboard startup that works with brands to make personalised stickers and GIFs. It claims to have 5 million daily active users.

Until now, stickers and GIFs have had international themes, which are not able to meet local demand. Indian startups such as Bobble AI, GifsKey and Xploree have become the primary sources of localised stickers and GIFs, apart from dozens of applications available on app stores. “We are thinking of making stickers for brands that go well with different festivals or occasions.

For example, a sweet company may want to create a sticker for Diwali. Viral content is always helpful for brands,” said Bhawna Bansal, founder at Stickotext.

Google acquired Tenor, which powers a variety of GIF keyboards on phones and messengers, last year.

GIF search engine giant Giphy is one of the major competitors of Tenor. In China, GIFs and stickers have been very popular on applications like WeChat.

In India, as the trend is still picking up, most brands are experimenting with the format as it is yet to be proven. Companies are launching these campaigns from their experimental budgets.

“If a brand wants to be part of a conversation, it has to be smooth, not intrusive.

I think it has potential for brands who have a heart and tone of voice, who are fun brands,” said Syed Hasan, A&B Advertising. “However, the kind of budgets that are being put behind these are minuscule

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