Placeholders will only work when sending to a contacts list. If you try to send to an individual contact it will ignore any placeholders used.
You can check if it is sending with a placeholder on the confirmation page.
For example, the following is sent to a contacts list:
The following was sent to an individual contact and the placeholder has been stripped:
If used correctly, in the phone screen preview it will show the example of the first contact for the list you're sending to.
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