That’s a reasonable question, but if you go looking for answers in Meta’s financials, you won’t find many: The company blends WhatsApp’s metrics with those from Instagram and Facebook, so there’s very little specific data available. A few years ago, it announced that WhatsApp had 2 billion users around the world, and that’s about it.

On the other hand! You can learn quite a bit about WhatsApp simply by watching TV. That’s where Meta has started running ads promoting the messaging platform, using the cast of “Modern Family,” the long-running sitcom.

This isn’t the first time Meta has advertised WhatsApp on TV. A couple of years ago, it ran spots playing up WhatsApp’s privacy advantages, focused on ideas like “end-to-end encryption.”

But the current crop of spots is much, much more simple and direct: They tell you that WhatsApp is an app you can use to send messages. And that if some of your friends and family have iPhones and others use Androids, it will work really well without the dreaded blue/green bubble issues.

One version I’ve seen running on Hulu even included a QR code you could use to help download the app.

Combine that messaging, along with the messengers — the cast of a broadcast TV sitcom that was very, very popular yet never discussed by people who use terms like Prestige TV — and you can draw some pretty basic conclusions: While WhatsApp is very big outside the US, Meta thinks it has an opportunity find more users in America — especially those who live in flyover country instead of big coastal cities.

I ran that thesis by Carl Woog, who runs comms for WhatsApp, and he … said I had it right: WhatsApp thinks middle America is a growth market. Particularly with older users.

Woog said the ads, which started running last month, often around big national events like the NBA finals, are aimed at people who don’t live in big cities like Miami, New York, and Seattle, where WhatsApp is strongest in the US.

And he says that WhatsApp also does best with users under the age of 35 — which is why these ads are aimed at older would-be users, and why they employ the cast of a broadcast TV show that stopped running in 2020.

Oh. And I did get one data point out of Woog: He says that WhatsApp’s US year-over-year growth rate is running above 10%.

So there you go: Sometimes it still pays to watch TV.



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