How Snapchat Already Sold Out and Why It’s All Good

By: Emily Kalen, Media Manager

It seems as if every time a social platform announces they’ll be letting more brands advertise, the Internet revolts. More sponsored content in your Facebook feed, distracting from your friends’ updates? Ads on Instagram? Zuckerberg is selling out! A Twitter feed that prioritizes quote/unquote “relevant” content over timely content? Dorsey gets crucified. So when Evan Spiegel revealed plans for Snapchat ads, I expected the world to be grabbing their pitchforks…but so far, no angry mobs. Could it be possible that people actually like how brands are advertising on Snapchat?

To find out, I decided to survey some of my friends and coworkers (all digital natives) about how they feel regarding Snapchat advertising. My goal was to gauge people’s exposure to the platform’s various ad formats, opinions on the state of branded content, and thoughts around the outlook of the channel as it relates to brands. Almost everyone I surveyed had seen an ad on Snapchat. The most recalled format was Sponsored Geofilters, which appear as you swipe through filters to apply to your snaps. Brands like McDonalds and General Electric, as well as Hollywood productions such as Ted 2 and The Peanuts Movie, have used these to get people snapping and sharing their brand, both in a subtle and overt fashion.

Another immediate survey finding was that, overall, people feel alright about Snapchat ads. Looking at the chart below, you can see that attitudes skew slightly positive. Only three people said they hated them. On the scale of hate to love, I’d say a mean response of 5.6 equates to “Eh, they don’t bother me.” And in a world where 41% of millennials (the core demographic to the platform and the majority of p sample surveyed) use ad blocking software, this is actually pretty good!

My friends and colleagues also had some particularly nice things to say about the ads:

  • “I think some of the sponsored lenses are pretty neat.”
  • “Very authentic look and feel. Doesn’t look overly produced and that adds some credibility in my mind.”
  • “I used the Taco Bell Quesalupa filter this weekend and it was hyper relevant to what I was doing at the time…eating a Quesalupa.”

They also had some not-so-nice things to say:

  • “They are ads and feel like ads.”
  • “A lot of times content feels forced. Maybe it’s because I work in this space but even when an influencer has branded content it triggers an eye roll.”

Overall, there were more positive things said than negative, but none of the negative was very passionate. Could it be true? Ads that aren’t 100% repulsive exist?

More interesting to me were respondents’ answers to “How do you feel about the long-term impact brands will have on Snapchat?” Only 12% of respondents thought “they will completely ruin it,” while the majority leaned toward brands becoming an integral part of the platform.

Consumer response to ads on these platforms is usually negative. It’s expected that once a social platform starts letting brands advertise more, it suddenly becomes all about the ad revenue and the platform eventually becomes one big commercial. But with Snapchat, they just may have dodged the bullet.

By welcoming brands from the get-go, Snapchat has set a precedence. Its users now have faith that any advertising on the platform will feel authentic and have their best interest in mind. Consumers have come to love the branded lenses, they look forward to branded content in the Discover section, and latch on to brand personalities that share and send just like them. A crucial aspect of this is the interactivity. Sponsored filters are a fun daily novelty that contribute to the playfulness of the app. All branded content shares the same ephemeral nature as content on the platform, so it blends in quite naturally.

The rest of the ads on Snapchat are completely avoidable, most of them do not interfere with the core functionality of the platform (snapping and sharing between friends). Putting ads in live stories or in Discover content gives brands a designated space where their presence is anticipated and sought after. Even in that setting, skipping past an ad is as easy as tapping the screen. This puts the power in users’ hands.

Above all, what I think drives the platform’s successful evolution is the founders’ high standards…I mean really, what 23-year-old turns down a $3 billion offer unless they actually care about the app itself? My hunch is that brands are going to get better and better at Snapchat advertising, and as they do, the app’s culture will grow around them, making their presence felt and appreciated. So to answer the question I set out to answer, yes, people really do like Snapchat advertising and the future for brands on the platform is even brighter.