Monday, October 10th, 2016 | 8 min read
During this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, one commercial was not like the others. Among the polished and scripted ads, a shaky, first-person Snapchat video of DJ Khaled stood out. In it, the “King of Snapchat” hyped up Nike’s new Air Jordan sneakers and their “anti-gravity” features.
Some might call this risky move from Nike; others will see it as brilliant. The majority of Snapchat users are under 24 years old, and if they were tuning into the VMAs, Nike wanted to speak to them in a language they’d understand. That is, the language of Snapchat—unfettered, unrefined, and authentic.
Still, you don’t just have to use primetime TV spots to reach millennials and Generation Z. Through Snapchat Ads, Sponsored Lenses, and Geofilters, marketers can engage consumers at any time directly on their smartphones. And many already are, considering Snapchat’s ad revenue is expected to reach $1 billion by 2017.
With fresh targeting features, a built-in news platform, and 150 million daily users, there are plenty of opportunities for marketers to reach young, social savvy audiences with Snapchat ads.
Here’s what you need to know.
Compared to other mainstream social platforms, Snapchat is truly unique. The content is always presented vertically, meaning people don’t have to turn their screens to see videos in full view. And this isn’t just for kicks; it really enhances the user experience. Last year, Snapchat reported that vertical videos had 9X higher completion rates than horizontal videos on mobile.
Snapchat posts also disappear after 24 hours, so you only have a day to get your message across and make an impact. As Ef Rodriguez, Global Director of Social at HTC, said, “The rapid ascent of Snapchat heralds a communications change from ‘Permanent and Archived’ to ‘Fleeting and Fun.’”
With these distinct features come equally extraordinary ad offerings. Let’s take a look.
Snap Ads are 10-second videos that pop up between regular Snap Stories, Live Stories launched around a specific event, and content on Discover—Snapchat’s curated news platform. Considering Snapchat generates 10 billion video views each day, there is plenty of attention time to go around. Two-thirds of Snapchat users even listen to videos with the sound on, beating out the average time on other social networks.
This summer, Gatorade launched Snapchat ads featuring a built-in, Nintendo-style video game called “Serena Match Point.” With 22 levels, the game was meant to celebrate the U.S. Open and Serena Williams’ 22 Grand Slam wins.
To reach sports fans, Gatorade distributed the ads within the ESPN Discover channel. By simply swiping up on the ad (an impressive new feature for Snapchat), users could start playing the game directly in the app. As AdAge reported, the ad saw an average time spent of more than three minutes per person.
With Sponsored Lenses, brands can create custom animations that lay over users’ pictures and videos, and fit to their faces and actions. These interactive ads get people to play around with a company’s content, make it their own, and share it with friends.
For example, Taco Bell turned people’s heads into a giant taco for Cinco de Mayo, because why not?
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) May 6, 2016
According to AdWeek, Taco Bell’s festive Lens was viewed 224 million times.
Geofilters are graphics that enhance Snaps sent from specific locations. For instance, when a user sends a Snap to friends from Las Vegas, they can access the Vegas Geofilter and add it to their Snap. McDonald’s was the first company to launch Sponsored Geofilters, which users could access when they visited McDonald’s establishments in the US. The filters were ultimately used on over 12 million Snaps.
Snapchat ads are not one-size-fits-all-social-networks. Marketers can’t necessarily copy and paste their Facebook and Twitter strategies onto Snapchat. They can’t even simply transfer their YouTube videos (unless those videos have a vertical layout). As such, Snapchat demands that brands create fresh content for its platform and really become familiar with its unique language and style.
According to Snapchat Australia General Manager Kathryn Carter, there are three sides to Snapchat: personal Snap Stories, community-based Live Stories, and the editorial Discover platform.
“We wanted to create a platform where communication and the consumption of content was happening seamlessly in one place,” she said. And that’s exactly what Snapchat did when it launched Discover, a curated news platform featuring custom channels from major media outlets like ESPN, BuzzFeed, Comedy Central, and Vogue. Just like regular Snaps, Discover content is only live for 24 hours, and then it disappears. This motivates content providers to keep their news fresh and timely.
While Discover has gone through some changes in its short life—such as cutting Snapchat’s own content channel and adding more publishers—it continues to be an important part of the Snapchat’s ecosystem. And Snapchat is betting on it by making the Discover platform more prominent within the app.
As such, it’s important for marketers to understand how Discover works. When it comes time to launch your ad, you’ll be able to target by content type on Discover, and you’ll want to have a feel for which channels fit best with your messaging.
Brands have already been able to target Snapchat users by age, gender, location, device, carrier, and content. But now the messaging app is taking a few hints from Facebook’s offerings and expanding its targeting capabilities.
Here’s a quick breakdown of Snapchat’s three new targeting features
Snapchat has also partnered with companies like Nielsen and Google to provide new metrics for advertisers, which have yet to be revealed.
Snapchat is a relatively new company, and it’s leaders are learning as they go. In just the past few years, founder Evan Spiegel’s views on advertising have shifted. He used to be fundamentally against targeting, for instance, and now he’s adopting Facebook’s in-depth targeting strategies.
After feedback from marketers, the company also dropped its prices to accommodate a wider range of brand budgets. Rumors of a Snapchat algorithm have even begun to pop up, causing advertisers to start rethinking their strategies. Most recently, however, Snapchat revealed its plans to launch video-capturing sunglasses, and, in turn, rebrand its company to “Snap Inc.”
Snapchat either wants to keep things unpredictable, or it’s just going through growing pains. Regardless, marketers should keep informed and stay on their toes—especially if they want to reach younger demographics with visually engaging content.