Interview: Avinash Pant on making of WhatsApp’s first global brand campaign

Avinash Pant

In conversation with Social Samosa, Facebook’s Avinash Pant sheds light on what went behind making ‘Its Between You’ campaign amidst the lockdown and WhatsApp’s communication policies.

Earlier this month, WhatsApp launched its first brand campaign ‘It’s Between You’ in India helmed by Gauri Shinde narrating real stories about how Indians communicate daily on WhatsApp. According to the messaging platform, the campaign brings alive WhatsApp’s commitment to privacy which is not just a feature but a feeling, that is underpinned in its end-to-end encryption. 

We got in touch with Avinash Pant, Director – Marketing at Facebook India to get some behind the scenes scoop about the campaign production amidst the crisis, Whatsapp’s content strategy, privacy policies, and more.

Excerpts:

How does the campaign help in establishing the overall platform objective and what insight triggered it?

Privacy gives people the ability to communicate as their true selves. This is especially true during this time of physical distancing when WhatsApp has been a lifeline to many during this lockdown.

We wanted to tell real stories about how people use WhatsApp to have intimate conversations. The endeavor is to highlight that the privacy that WhatsApp provides through end to end encryption is not just a feature, but a feeling that leads to real human connections. We also wanted the ads to convey that physical distances don’t have to mean emotional distances as people can use WhatsApp to talk to their loved ones.  

Why did WhatsApp decide to launch its first brand campaign in India, now? Can you share details on the timing?

As more of our conversations continue to move online, we believe that your private conversations deserve to stay where they should and that’s between you. The campaign tells real stories about how people use WhatsApp to have intimate conversations and when privacy is deeply felt, relationships feel more intimate and real. 

We also wanted the ads to convey that physical distances don’t have to mean emotional distances as people can use WhatsApp to talk to their loved ones. This is especially true during this time of physical distancing when WhatsApp has been a lifeline to many during this lockdown.

The ads for ‘It’s Between You’ campaign will run for 10 weeks, across India on a diverse number of national and regional television channels, on Facebook, Instagram, and other digital platforms.

Why did the brand choose privacy as the focal point of the campaign?

Respect for our users’ privacy is coded into our DNA – we remain committed to helping connect the world privately and protect personal communication in India and over the world. As we conduct more of our lives online, protecting our conversations is more important than ever. Private conversations that once were only possible face-to-face, now take place across great distances through instant chats and video calling. There are so many significant and special moments that take place over WhatsApp. So, we believe that your private conversations deserve to stay where they should and that’s between you.

With an exceptional number of days into the lockdown, how was the brainstorming and decision-making process around the campaign done? Please sum up the campaign journey for us.

The fact that people can feel connected in a personal and private way while separated across distances is the very essence of WhatsApp. 

Shooting these films remotely was definitely a new and challenging experience for everyone involved. Shot in the early days of lockdown, the production happened remotely following the utmost standards of safety and precaution. This meant casting had to be done keeping in mind that the actors and the cinematographers who lived together, so no one from outside would enter the premises. The rest of the family members became hair, make-up, and costume assistants. This also meant a new language at the shoot itself – for the first time, we heard, “Action, Mumma” instead of just “Action”.

The client’s agency and even the director supervised the shoot through a WhatsApp video call, just as they conducted the pre-production meetings (PPM) and the presentations.

Way forward for the campaign: What else in the pipeline as part of the campaign?

WhatsApp is used and loved by consumers across India, and we want to reach all of them. Throughout this year, the “It’s between you” campaign will see multiple creative executions land in high profile cultural moments across various marquee properties.

These films are in English and seven regional languages that include Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Gujarati, Marathi, and Kannada.

What kind of content hooks and communication points do you use to add value to the consumers’ life? What does the platform media mix look at the moment?

WhatsApp is used and loved by consumers across India, and we want to reach all of them. Our media plan reflects this consumer-first approach, and thus the campaign is live across key mediums like TV, our own platforms Facebook & Instagram, and other digital OTT platforms, which provide us significant reach and engagement.

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The campaign will run for 10 weeks, across India on a diverse number of leading national and regional television channels and digital platforms.

Throughout this year, the “It’s between you” campaign will see multiple creative executions land in high profile cultural moments across the year from festivals to the Cricket IPL. 

Over the course of the campaign, these films will be available in English and seven regional languages that include Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Gujarati, Marathi, and Kannada.

What are the other avenues that you WhatsApp has come up to ease the consumer journey including WhatsApp Pay?

More than two billion people around the world love and use WhatsApp. While we continue to focus on providing you with a simple, reliable, and secure application for communicating with family and friends, we also continue to improve our product design so that WhatsApp remains the most convenient way to communicate wherever you are. We have launched several new features this year, like animated stickers, QR codes, and dark mode.

From a marketing point of view, what are the key focus areas for WhatsApp in India in the next half of the year?

During the ongoing pandemic, WhatsApp emerged as a lifeline in containment zones as well as continued to help people to connect with families, friends as well as colleagues. 

We will continue to provide an experience that both people and businesses find valuable, and one that helps foster strong relationships. We remain committed to ensuring both people and businesses have a safe and private space to communicate.


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