Snapchat Says Its Weaknesses Are Actually Strengths for Advertisers

Snapchat just recently started to include advertisements in its popular ephemeral messaging app, but its advertising strategy is notably different than its competitors' strategies. Snapchat says it has no interest in tricking its users into clicking ads by blurring the line between advertising and organic content created by actual users.

The company's ads are clearly identified as sponsored content, and they aren't placed in users' personal communications, such as "snaps" or chats. "That would be totally rude," the company wrote in a blog post announcing its first ad for Universal Pictures' film "Ouija." "We want to see if we can deliver an experience that's fun and informative, the way ads used to be, before they got creepy and targeted."

The majority of social media platforms purposefully gather as much user data as possible to help brands place relevant and targeted ads. Snapchat calls that strategy "creepy," but the reality is that it can't deliver targeted ads even if it wants to.

"Snapchat is falling back on an old advertising technique -- if you have a weakness, turn it into a strength," says Adam Kleinberg, CEO of interactive agency Traction. "The weakness is that Snapchat doesn't have rich data to collect if they wanted to because the majority of the messages on that platform are visual in nature. And since they have no data, they're doing the best they can with the hand they're dealt -- telling users that they don't collect data because they don't think it's the right thing to do."

Kleinberg says Snapchat could become particularly valuable to marketers due to two things: passion and promotion. "When people are passionate about a brand already -- maybe it's in entertainment or fashion or a brand like Red Bull that people are drawn to -- this is a great platform to be on because people on it are eager to get messages from those brands."

Most brands simply aren't that popular or appealing, Kleinberg says. "Kraft salad dressing releasing a new flavor is not going to have the same success as Eminem releasing a new album."

Snapchat Advertising: Old School Format, New School Delivery

Universal Pictures wasn't the first company to place an advertisement on Snapchat, but it was the first to pay Snapchat for an ad. Taco Bell experimented with the service during the past few months, and it amassed more than 200,000.

The select brands that embraced the platform early are seeing their bets pay off with phenomenal engagement rates. Taco Bell recently told Adweek.com that about 80 percent of its followers open its snaps and 90 percent of those people view the messages in their entirety. It's easy to understand why brands might be willing to overlook some of Snapchat's weaknesses when you compare that success to the low single-digit engagement averages for organic posts on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, as Snapchat attracts more brands that are willing to pay for ads, those engagement numbers could significantly decrease. The company is young and just beginning to evolve into an ad-supported network, and determining performance is a challenge. Brands that consistently attract engaged audiences, however, could want to strike while the iron is hot.

Snapchat also appears to be focusing on linear TV-like ads, which have always fallen under the "spray and pray" category of big media advertising. The 20-second Snapchat spot for "Ouija" is similar to a traditional movie trailer. Measuring accountability for these types of ads isn't easy, but Snapchat brings one clearly unique feature to the table.

Touch as a Game Changer for Snapchat Ads

Snapchat users must keep their fingers on mobile device screens to view snaps in their entirety, and the company's ads work the same way. "The fact that you have to touch the ad to watch it does give a higher indication of engagement," Kleinberg says. "If you don't want to see it, you can just let go."

By eschewing data collection and targeted ads, Snapchat could also solve digital marketing's reach issue, according to Kleinberg.

"Marketers want to reach large audiences and they want to target as specifically as they can," he says. "The problem with that is as soon as you start honing your target, you reduce the size of the audience you reach. By eliminating the capability to target, marketers can buy larger audiences without feeling bad about 'going too broad.'"

For what it's worth, Universal Pictures told MarketingLand.com that views for its first ad were "in the millions," and it doesn't worry about Snapchat's lack of targeting because the vast majority of its users are coveted millennials. Unfortunately, this approach won't work for many brands, and big media campaigns may be the only way Snapchat can drive the revenue needed to justify its reported $10 billion valuation.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Craig Davis

​Leadership resilience, startups scaling up, marketing best practices, customer insights - these are just a few of the topics we manage to explore in the latest episode of Conversations over a Cuppa with CMO featuring Craig Davis.

More Videos

Good day sir / madamWe CLOSED JOINT-STOCK COMPANY AO KAYUM NEFT OIL COMPANY is one of theleading Oil & Gas trading companies in Russi...

BARYBKIN ALEXANDER ALEXANDROVI

3-pronged marketing approach for property disruptor Brickx

Read more

Good day sir / madamWe CLOSED JOINT-STOCK COMPANY AO KAYUM NEFT OIL COMPANY is one of theleading Oil & Gas trading companies in Russi...

BARYBKIN ALEXANDER ALEXANDROVI

Oath to fully acquire Yahoo7 from Seven West Media

Read more

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Definitely bookmarked for future reading! Check this website https://a2designlab.com/ with lots of ...

Ryota Miyagi

Brene Brown: What it takes to be a brave leader right now

Read more

Well said! It is high time to look into the cultural values and beliefs of the audience before serving with the ads. If it is against the...

Praveen Kumar

The X factor in multicultural media planning and buying - Digital advertising - CMO Australia

Read more

I completely agree with you. High-quality customer service only strengthens loyalty to the company and helps to increase sales and increa...

Natali

Mercer CMO: How B2B brands can achieve customer love

Read more

Blog Posts

Life beyond the cookie: 5 steps to mapping the future of marketing measurement

​There’s no denying there’s been a whirlwind of response to the imminent demise of the third-party cookie from all parts of the industry. But as we’ve collectively come to better understand the implications, it’s clear this change is giving the digital advertising industry the opportunity to re-think digital marketing to support core industry use cases, while balancing consumer privacy.

Natalie Stanbury

Director of research, IAB Australia

Ensuring post-crisis success

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed brands’ CX shortcomings and a lack of customer understanding. Given ongoing disruption, customer needs, wants and expectations are continually changing, also causing customers to behave in different ways. Just look at hoarding toilet paper, staple and canned food, medicinal and cleaning products.

Riccardo Pasto

senior analyst, Forrester

A few behavioural economics lesson to get your brand on top of the travel list

Understanding the core principles of Behavioural Economics will give players in the travel industry a major competitive advantage when restrictions lift and travellers begin to book again. And there are a few insights in here for the rest of the marketing community, too.

Dan Monheit

Co-founder, Hardhat

Sign in