Snapchat’s Advertising Evolution


I’ll be the first to admit it- I’m a little obsessed with Snapchat. I’ve stuck with the app through all the updates: when the “best friends” feature was taken away, when “best friends” came back (but privately), when emojis were introduced, and thus reduced your entire relationship with someone to what kind of smiley they had next to their name, and when the interactive lenses (or filters) were rolled out. I hate losing a snap streak with someone, and not a day goes by where I don’t use the dog filter. Snapchat is, as the kids say, “bae.”

I’m not alone in this either. On any given day, Snapchat reaches 11 percent of the American population, and 41 percent of 18-34 year olds. Snapchat saw a growth of 400 percent from May 2015 to May 2016, and now surpasses Twitter in users worldwide. It has an unparalleled hold on a highly desired market – millennials account for 70 percent of the user base, which marketers spend 500 percent more to reach than any other demographic.2

And all this makes Snapchat’s latest updates all the more interesting to me – as a consumer, as a millennial and as a PR and marketing professional. If you missed the announcements (and you’re not following us on Twitter, what?) Snapchat has made two major changes recently:

  1. They started showing ads in-between stories.
  2. And they introduced “memories” – a feature that lets you save your snaps within the app.

Both are major changes for the platform which has historically catered more to its consumers than advertisers and built its reputation on disappearing photos.

From a marketer’s standpoint this is a natural evolution. Snapchat is a rapidly growing platform with a huge revenue potential and the demands from its user base have changed. People wanted a way to easily save and find snaps, and to post photos on their story without having to take them within the platform. Advertisers wanted a better and more cohesive way to reach their audience. Advertising opportunities now include:

  • 1In-Story Ads. Previously advertisers could only post within the Discovery feature, which could get anywhere from 500,000 to over a million views in a day (with overall daily video views that beat Facebook’s by 2 billion). No word yet on if the in-story ads have increased viewership- but those numbers are sure to be coming soon.
  • Sponsored Lenses. These are huge for advertisers, both in cost and reach. Costs can surpass $750,000 for 24 hours during big holidays and events. But big cost means big exposure. Take the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority lens, which was viewed 41 million times and played with by 29 million users in just 24 hours.
  • Geofilters. A geofilter is a filter that appears within certain geographical locations. These filters and their respective locations are designed by any user, then approved and made live by Snapchat. Companies can design a geofilter and pay for it to be used where they want. Snapchat also has a feature of on-demand (read: “short-term”) geofilters that can be used to promote a campaign, sale, or event for a lower budget.

As a consumer, I have mixed feelings. For all its growth, Snapchat has done a good job of keeping its focus on its users and not on making money off of us. So far I haven’t seen a ton of ads pop up in between stories, and sometimes I don’t notice even when they do. Will they eventually roll out more and more ads? Will the next update evolve into not being skippable unless you buy a paid subscription, like Pandora? But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I reserve full judgement until these features have been in use for several months. And I already love memories feature, it’s so convenient for delayed posting and organizing my photos!

What do you think of the update, as a consumer or marketer? Let us know in the comments!

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