The paranormal, unfinished business and unlucky love—these are all themes you might find talked about on Whisper, the app that lets anonymous users post secretive messages. They are also the themes in Hulu’s new original series Deadbeat, which will launch with a Whisper campaign today.
Deadbeat is marketing on Whisper, the first open example of advertising on the app. It makes sense that Hulu would be the first marketer to officially use the app because the two companies have a connection: Eric Yellin, Hulu’s former vp of marketing, left to join the startup earlier this year.
Whisper, which doesn’t release official user numbers, is among the new mobile messaging-style apps with a sheen of anonymity built in, a reaction to the overly revealing nature of traditional social media. Users post text messages laid on top of photos, and the members can be as candid as they want because their words aren’t traced back to a real identity.
Brands have clearly played around there, at least under the radar, as there are many messages related to fast food companies, soft drinks, movies and other products. But the team at Whisper is only just now starting to work with the ad world.
“We have always believed that Whisper would be a great content marketing and brand storytelling platform,” said Mike Downey, Whisper’s head of business development. “People whisper about their favorite movies, shows and brands all the time. It can be some of our best content.”
Today, Whisper users should start seeing images from Hulu’s new show Deadbeat, about a slacker ghost detective who helps spirits resolve unfinished business. Whisper is expected to offer images from Deadbeat to users interested in conversations (based on their discussing topics around certain keywords) that are related to themes in the show. Users can then use those images as the background for messages they post to the network.
Users will be able to tell which images were planted by Hulu because they'll come with a Deadbeat logo. Downey said that Whisper is still figuring out exactly how to label posts that are technically ads. Whisper is working on a number of ways for brands to market within the app, including seeding sponsored Whispers from marketers to spark conversation or just offering images for users to add to their posts.
Brands could eventually work with Whisper to ensure that the image pool only has high-quality photos of their products, said Downey, who was brainstorming about the potential because advertising on Whisper is still so new.
Whisper and Hulu were at SXSW this week. Hulu is set to host a premiere of Deadbeat at the Austin festival before the show starts streaming next month.
“We’re supporting Deadbeat with a full-on, 360 marketing push that includes a lot of elements—outdoor, TV and lots of flavors of digital,” said Tom McAlister, director of Hulu content marketing.
McAlister would not say how much Hulu was spending to market on Whisper, but he said they were confident in the value of the platform.
There have been some tests from other marketers, Downey said. Users can search from a group of trends to see messages related to those trends. People may have seen the trending topic for the movie Endless Love that prompted people to post messages about their love lives.
“They had done a test and we were able to review data around results,” McAlister said. “It wasn’t like we jumped in head first without knowing anything.”
One of the attractions of Whisper to Hulu was that Deadbeat touched on topics that would likely spark conversations on the app. The campaign could inspire user-generated slogans as people take the themes and just run with them, creating their own messages that naturally tie into the show.
“There are a lot of people whispering about unfinished business,” McAlister said.