By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

October 25, 2022 | 5 min read

Tasked with touting its latest privacy features, WhatsApp’s creative team devised a plan to take the somewhat dry topic and make it exciting. Here’s the story behind the 3D billboard that intrigued the internet.

3D billboards are the hot marketing medium of the moment, and the Meta-owned messaging app WhatsApp was the latest brand to hop on the trend. Yet, amid the sea of stunts, this Piccadilly activation stood out and garnered industry-wide praise for its creativity.

“We’re very excited. You think about these things, you envision what you’re going to do, but to see it come to life and be embraced by people means the team is feeling very proud,” says Vivian Odior, global head of marketing at WhatsApp, about the reaction.

“Partly because of the creative prowess behind it, but more importantly the messaging that we were able to bring to our users in a powerful, impactful and memorable way. It was a lot of fun. It was definitely a creative dream.”

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The project was a collaboration between Meta’s in-house team Creative X and production company Ntropic. The team quickly realized that if they were going to nail this, they needed something bold. “We fell in love with the concept that technology really is modern-day magic. It gave us a license to represent privacy features such as ‘end-to-end encryption’ and ‘disappearing messages’ in truly astonishing ways,” explains Garrett Jones, creative director at Meta.

“When we began thinking about this iconic media placement, we saw a great opportunity to reinforce the brand’s stance on privacy with a visual metamorphosis of a 200-year-old piece of architecture.”

With the location a huge consideration in this project, digitally altering the building made the ad feel more immersive for viewers. It was a “canvas” adds Odior, stating that “we really lucked up on the space at Piccadilly and we wanted to step up to the challenge. We looked for a creative process that was going to be simple in terms of the message that it delivered so that we could spend most of our time on the technicalities and how we brought it to life.”

It was a super-fast turnaround too, with the billboard taking less than four weeks to complete. “Ntropic applied a cinema-quality VFX team to a very simple idea, and I think the result was pretty magical,” recalls Jones. “Our three-chapter story began with a live moment that reflected the WhatsApp community, then leaped further away from IRL with every step. We suspended reality for thousands of passers-by and sparked a conversation around WhatsApp’s ongoing privacy efforts with a bit of ‘wow’ to break up the day.”

In recent years privacy concerns have been a hot topic for many people, with Meta products often at the center of debates. “We want people to enjoy that story – it doesn’t need to be a boring write-up,” notes Odior. “These features are exciting, they’re very empowering and knowing that they’re there protecting you is super important. It was another way to have that conversation with our users.”

Understanding how WhatsApp “moves the needle” is key to the conversation. “Do people hear us? Do they believe us? What do they think about us now? When you look at the billboard, the reaction speaks for itself,” adds Odior. “People really reacted, they loved the creativity and they took notice.”

Leaning into creative ways of describing privacy and connecting with people is an approach that the marketer says WhatsApp will be continuing. “Once you get a taste of that, there’s definitely no going back.”

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