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WhatsApp with ads?


UAE companies use WhatsApp to reach consumers

August 19, 2014 4:29 by

Although the Facebook-owned company does not allow ads on its app, more and more firms are using WhatsApp to spread their messages.

WhatsApp is used around the world and boasts an average of 500 million users per month, so it comes as little surprise that companies in the UAE are learning new ways to take advantage of such a broad reach.

As an organization, WhatsApp has a policy that states: “You cannot use any automated system that sends out more messages in a minute than humanly possible and you agree not to span or solicit other users for commercial purposes.” However, as Kippreport’s sister publication, Communicate, discovered – there are ways around this condition.

So, why are companies turning to WhatsApp to advertise when they have the risk-free opportunity of SMS or e-mail advertising?

Ashwin Salian, managing partner at digital communications group Clique Communications, says: “While SMS marketing allows only 160 and 80 characters in English and Arabic, respectively, WhatsApp allows you to have unlimited characters. You can also send various media such as images, audio, video, etcetera; which allows marketers to get more creative.”

Salian is not the only person to think this, Alex Wilkinson, mobile manager at MCN‘s digital services agency Platform 5, adds: “I feel that advertising on WhatsApp will involve marketing messages being delivered to a highly relevant target audience in an enclosed environment, and will be an uninterruptive and native experience for users”.

While advertisers might see this as an opportunity to be unobtrusive, advertising at it’s very core is an obtrusive practice – and when it comes into play in an ‘ad-free’ space such as WhatsApp, you can expect to have some unhappy customers at your doorstep.

Companies are now in a ‘grey area’ where they must tread carefully.

As Sailan points out, receiving unsolicited messages in an ‘ad-free’ space is, at the very least, irksome.

He says: “The problem is that it’s unregulated and it could be spammy; unless you have a database where people have opted in and are giving you permission to send messages. I’m not sure if it is an ethical kind of marketing at the moment.”

Manish Gupta, managing partner at EDZ FZE, who has clients such as Forever 21 and Renault, presents the counter argument, saying: “Even in an e-mailer, you would send it to people who haven’t subscribed, but you give them an option of unsubscribing. Similarly on Whatsapp, if a user tries to respond back, it sends an auto-responder. They [users] can then reply and opt out, and we will make sure they don’t receive a message again.”

We know one thing for sure, as users, if we haven’t signed up for something – we aren’t secretly hoping to receive any unsolicited advertising.

Regardless of our personal feelings on the matter, it is certain that advertisers and marketers are beginning to see the potential of WhatsApp advertising, but for all our sakes, we hope they figure out a way to do it correctly.


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