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Vivian Odior, WhatsApp’s head of marketing, said that working with NBA All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo stands out as an advertising moment for the messaging brand this year. “It’s also the one my parents would be most proud of,” she said.
Odior’s family shares Nigerian heritage with the basketball legend. His partnership with WhatsApp encapsulated what the brand was trying to do with its first major push in the U.S. this year. Antetokounmpo has global reach—he plays in Milwaukee, he was born in Greece and his family emigrated from Nigeria.
Odior, 37, obviously is a power user of WhatsApp for work; she estimates she opens the app about 50 times a day. And she relies on the app, like most of its 2 billion-plus users, to stay in touch with family and friends. “I don’t love the term ‘global citizen,’ but I go with ‘global citizen,’” Odior said. “I live my life [on WhatsApp] with people I care about all over the world.”
She added, “Any waking moment of the day, someone is able to message me or leave a voice note.”
Odior’s marketing mandate at WhatsApp represents a major responsibility. It is one of the most important products at parent Meta, even as the company sets its eyes on the metaverse as the next computing platform. But one of WhatsApp’s marketing challenges is generating trust with the public, especially regarding privacy. To that end, Odior guided WhatsApp’s first U.S. TV campaign earlier this year, with the tagline: Always message privately.
Those commercials first ran in NFL playoff games. Then in February, Antetokounmpo came into the NBA All-Star game wearing a WhatsApp-inspired hoodie, with “+234” emblazoned on the back. It was a nod to both his Milwaukee Bucks’ No. 34, and Nigeria’s country calling code “+234.” “We designed a hoodie that hacked his jersey number,” Odior said.
My grandmothers. They don’t speak the best English, and I feel I haven’t spent enough time with them in my lifetime to understand them and love them. The burden and blessing of an immigrant kid is you are sometimes very far removed from your roots, and those who made it possible for you to be here. There is so much I’d love to know about being a woman in Nigeria many generations ago.
Instagram is a learning ground for me. I enjoy it so much. I wish WhatsApp was considered social media, because I spend so much time there, but it’s Instagram and then YouTube as a far second.
Akawaeke Emezi’s “You Make a Fool of Death With Your Beauty,” and Jessica Nabongo’s “The Catch Me If You Can.” I love travel and the world, and both of these books I know will transport me from where I am today to spaces where I can learn more about the world.
All I do is binge-watch. Can I get three? “Glow Up,” “Never Have I Ever” and—for the third time—“Top Boy” season 2.
I’ll be a busybody my entire life. I just know it. But the age I want to feel like I can give myself permission to rest is 53—in 16 years!
In this article:
Garett Sloane is Ad Age’s technology, digital and media reporter. He has worked in newspapers from Albany to New York City, and small towns in between. He has also worked at every advertising industry trade publication that matters, and he once visited Guatemala and once rode the Budapest Metro.
40 Under 40: Vivian Odior, head of marketing, WhatsApp – AdAge.com