A Snapshot of Snapchat

Thursday 24th, March 2016

Sometime in January this year, there was a huge buzz everywhere that the White House had joined the hip, teen-friendly social media platform Snapchat! The first picture that was posted was one of the president’s desk in the Oval Office, with a bowl of apples on a coffee table in the forefront. The whole idea of the White House joining Snapchat was to “engage this broad cross-section of the population in new and creative ways.” (A White House blog post)

Snapchat is huge – 60% of smartphone users between the ages of 13 and 34 use it. And the app has over a 100 million daily active users.

So what is Snapchat?

It is a photo and video messaging social app, that some say, has the potential to overthrow huge giants like Facebook and Twitter. The videos or pictures posted exist only for a short window, after which they simply dissolve and disappear.

How can you market on something like this?

It is being touted as the next big thing that will change marketing in ways that you can’t ever imagine. But seriously?

Some say that it works because it is unique and different. And it makes marketers tell their brand story in a different way – a way that is creative and relevant to the kind of people who use it (13 to 34 year olds). It makes you engage with them in ways that a marketer is not traditionally used to.

It is great for media and fashion brands – anyone who creates content regularly. Brands like Domino’s, Pepsi Max and Adidas already use it.

Advertising on this can cost a bomb – and then there is the question of measurability. But Snapchat is said to be working on making it measurable. And there is the question of the demographic that it seems to be so popular with. So it definitely won’t work for someone selling medical insurance to the Baby Boomers.

But then this is how several platforms start off – they are very niche. They start young… they are extremely consumer-based – and then suddenly they are taking the world by storm. Snapchat has already got over 100 million active every-day users, incidentally!


Recently, Snapchat announced the launch of its On-Demand Geofilters – they are overlays that can be accessed in certain locations. And brands, artists and designers can send their images to be made available to the community they choose. Brands like MasterCard can lap this up – making branded geofilters that will be available at specific places. Or a car company can use it to sell the idea of a drive in a picturesque location with a branded geofilter. Since the pictures of videos stay only for a few hours, maybe a coffee company can have some filters that appear only in the morning!

All this is very well – but there are several points that need considering before crowning Snapchat the next thing to take marketing into different realms.

  • It costs a lot to advertise on Snapchat. It is reported that brands need to pay as much as $750,000 a day for its new ads! (Snapchat hasn’t commented on or confirmed this) and this is higher than what YouTube charges for its masthead, about $500,000 a day!
  • There are issues with its reporting capabilities. Measurement issues. Apparently it can’t even tell you how many men and how many women saw any ad. You can’t tell how old the person who saw the ad, is! Things like that!
  • And when the content disappears so quickly, brands will be wary of paying so much! Of course, since the user has to press on an ad to view it, one can demonstrate user engagement to quite an extent.
  • Right now, it is huge among the youth – not the older people. This limits its appeal to brands that would like to target the older and more affluent people.

And Snapchat is listening – a recent article from the Wall Street Journal said that “Snapchat has heard a message from marketers: they are interested in tapping into the company’s huge, youthful audience, but want a better sense of the value of running ads on the platform. The mobile startup has hired two veterans from the media research arena who will be tasked with further establishing Snapchat’s legitimacy as a powerful vehicle for brand advertising.

“Ali Rana has been named Snapchat’s new head of audience and brand solutions. Mr. Rana has spent the past 17 years at Millward Brown–a prominent marketing research firm owned by WPP which helps advertisers figure out how best to allocate ad budgets, among others things. His most recent role at Millward Brown was that of chief digital strategist, where he focused on developing measurement methodologies and a practice for emerging digital platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat.

“Meanwhile, Gunnard Johnson has been named Snapchat’s new head of quantitative ads research. Mr. Johnson was most recently advertising research director for Google. There, he worked on building out research standards for brands looking to compare the potential of advertising on YouTube versus traditional television.

“Just a few weeks ago, Snapchat inked a deal with Nielsen to supply ad buyers with more data on ad campaigns, and also partnered with two ad tech companies to assist in the same effort.  Snapchat also recently started working with Moat, a fast-growing digital analytics company which just raised $50 million in venture funding.” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/snapchat-hires-two-senior-measurement-executives-1458671678)


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