The Evolution of Snapchat Ads

By: Heather Karbi

Snapchat advertising can leave a long-lasting impression on users that goes far beyond the allotted number of seconds that most Snaps lasts. Fortunately for advertisers, the app has widely expanded their ad platform over the last couple of years, continuously integrating new and creative ways to advertise.

From the app’s conception in 2011, Snapchat has gradually introduced new features that make room for advertisers on the platform. Although it wasn’t until 2016 that Snap Ads were introduced, Stories, Lenses, filters, and the Discover panel have all given opportunity to advertisers in some very creative ways.

But first, let’s go back to the beginning.

The introduction of Stories in 2013, was advertisers’ first in with consumers through the platform. Not only could companies now add a Snapchat account to their belt of social media outlets, but they could tap into a community largely used and made popular by teens-- an app mainly designed for quick chatting through pictures rather than news feed scrolling, this gave advertisers a way to enter the modern conversation. Through Stories, advertisers can share quick, daily updates of their own, in an engaging storytelling format, like behind-the-scenes pictures and videos. For instance, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show increased their viewership by posting Stories with exclusive content from their models, and in doing so, included viewers in the exciting lead up towards the televised show. Snapchat’s business site appeals to advertisers in saying, “Tell stories the same way Snapchatters do.”

A step further: Filters.

Soon after Stories were invented, Filters came into play. Filters are tailored, sometimes location-based, visual overlays that can be placed over a Snapchatter’s picture or video. Advertisers benefit greatly when they create unique, aesthetically-pleasing filters that users can gravitate to, and share with their friends. Even if Snapchatters don’t use the filter a significant amount, the ad is still broadcast within the selection of filters to swipe through, and users view it when editing their Snap.

Almost a year later, enter Live Stories:

If Stories or Filters weren’t suited for certain types of advertisers, this innovative update might have given them the chance to jump in. Live Stories, unlike regular old Stories, is a powerful tool that allows a community of Snapchatters-- usually in a shared location-- to contribute to a collective, public Story. This opens up the possibility for advertisers to easily broadcast live updates from events or places, through their very own consumers, attendees, or supporters. If you aren’t convinced of the marketing potential here, take for instance the fact that Coachella’s Live Story attracted over 40 million viewers. Although Coachella was big to begin with, it’s only grown more year after year. Live Stories give viewers the exciting highlights of an event and effectively induce a FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that can become a very powerful arsenal in advertising your special event, place, or experience.

The next way to “Discover” advertising potential

Snapchat introduced their Discover panel in 2015, a new, visual feature that promotes popular publications like Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, CNN, Daily Mail, Vice, and more. Brand advertisements could appear within these publication’s Stories, so as when a user is swiping through their reading content, an ad might appear every couple of swipes. This was the first type of explicit advertising promoted by Snapchat itself-- and it wasn’t received well by avid users. In fact, according to Business Insider, the Apple App Store was “flooded with nearly 2,000 one-star reviews” of the app concerning the Discover feature updates, and the overall rating dropped from 2.5 stars to 1.5 stars.

For years, Snapchat had been nearly ad-free for users who didn’t follow brands or watch Live Stories, but with the addition of Discover, there was no escaping the influx of marketing happening on the app. Users were angry and annoyed that the once simple, picture sharing app had seemingly been taken over by publications and brands. This new update complicated the app’s purpose within the social media world, making it increasingly similar to Twitter and Facebook.

A fun new creation: Snapchat Lenses.

After the backlash following the introduction of the Discover panel, Snapchat developers waited months before releasing a new major feature. When they finally did, it was definitely worth the wait. Lenses brought to the table a feature that was not only good for advertisers, but great for users too. Similar to Filters, but more advanced and interactive, this facial recognition feature was popular with users from the get-go. Lenses are essentially filters that can be used in selfie mode (front-facing camera) to detect a face and morph it with overlays. The result can be anything from the infamous dog filter, which gives you an adorable dog snout and a pair of flappy ears, to an image of what you’d look like with way more wrinkles on your face.

The introduction of Lenses not only separated Snapchat from other social media platforms with innovative, augmented reality selfie filters, but it also encouraged user engagement and advertisers were able to jump on board to create their own Lenses. The reason why Lenses became ideal for advertisers is because users could interact and spend more time on the app than before, playing with the fun and goofy Lenses and sharing these Snaps with friends. Sponsored Lenses are an opportunity for brands to create their own custom and creative Lens for users to engage with. For example, new movies can advertise using a Lens that inserts the user into a virtual reality where they are inside a film, or where they are morphed into a spooky or wacky character from the film. On both ends, Lenses is a friendly and creative way to introduce brands with the viewer-- in a way that makes the user want to share the ad with their friends, or post it on their Story.

Sponsored Geofilters

Similar to the aforementioned regular Filters, Geofilters can also be used to display a specific filter tied to the location of the Snapchatter. And although Geofilters had been around for a while, it wasn’t until 2016 that advertisers could customize fun ads there as well. This is particularly useful for branded events, stores, company offices, and shows. It’s another easy way of linking a brand or a product to a user in a non-invasive or flashy way.

And finally, Snapchat Ads.

Although all this time Snapchat had been incorporating advertising into their app, it took developers a while before they introduced upfront, real ads. These ads are placed in between Friends’ Stories, and all users view them while flipping through their circle’s recent updates. These ads are typically for websites, apps, games, or videos, and they’re especially advertiser-friendly in that they encourage users to swipe up, directing them to the brand’s chosen page or video. However, the app still crafted these ads with users in mind, and designed them to be less invasive in the sense that they can always be skipped with a single tap.

Snapchat started as a small, simple picture sharing app and has expanded into a multi-media platform that allows brands to have a voice, allows users the same simple premise of temporary photo sharing, and allows everyone a modern, ever-changing space that is fun and interactive. With new updates and new opportunities for advertising coming out year after year, there’s surely much to look forward to in the future.

Are you interested in creative and fun ways to introduce your brand or services to new consumers? Speak with an UpOnline representative to see what mix of online marketing is best suited for your company.