Snapvertising: How Snapchat Is Taking Over Social Media Marketing

by Joey Ciampa and Tom Aberman

Snapchat is slowly becoming the biggest and best spot to advertise. But what makes this type of advertising so special? Why are companies paying $700,000+ for a custom snapchat lens?

At Snapchat, advertising is all about interaction. While the impact of Snapchat ads cannot be tracked, their interactivity and shareability are unparalleled. Nobody is going to share a Facebook ad with their friend, but someone might send a picture of their face as a taco.

That’s the power of Snapchat ads.

Types of Advertising

There are currently four ways to reach Snapchat’s 150 million daily users: Geofilters, Lenses, Discover, and Snap Ads Between Stories.

Sponsored Lenses

Lenses are filters you can apply live within the app that alter or overlay your face as you snap and send selfies. According to Snapchat, who calls time spent messing with lenses and interacting with app features “play time,” clocks this average interaction time at 20 seconds.

And what happens after you take that photo with the lens? Snapchat is built for constant photo & video sharing, so each sponsored lens has a built-in distribution mechanism: every Snapchat user’s contacts list.

No wonder sponsored lenses are popular, already well-trodden by notable companies like Totinos, Taco Bell, and Stride (and, as you can see at right, Maybelline… don’t we look pretty?): 20 seconds of playful brand interaction per user? Slam dunk.


Filters, on Snapchat, are overlays you apply after you take your photo. Like filters on traditional photo-editing software, some just change the look of your photo; however, geofilters add a badge or another graphic to indicate the geographic or event location where the photo was taken.

The geofencing technology that determines which geofilter option to display for users also supports the broadcast of sponsored filters. Some companies have paid absurd amounts to get their geofilters broadcast across the entire country, but since the debut of lenses, widespread sponsored geofilters are becoming less common. Generally, these are now used to promote more local events and launches, rather than national events like movie premieres.

Sponsored geofilters are open to anyone, business or individual, who can design a filter and who has an ad budget, not just to businesses that have a deal with Snapchat. Want to put up a geofilter for your end-of-summer party? Cool. Just go to the Snapchat website and check it out.


The “Discover” section of Snapchat is a wild world. It’s a combination of real news, clickbait, food porn, and user-created live stories. It’s easy to access, easy to read, easy to flip through, and easy to share with friends. So easy, in fact, that my friends are getting mad at me for constantly sending them Buzzfeed articles and pictures. Please don’t block me.

Not only do publishers pay to feature their content on Snapchat Discover, but paid ads will also show up between stories as you swipe. Snapchat recently made these ads incredibly cheap, as little as $.02 per view, as compared to YouTube’s $.10-$.30 per view. And, since Snapchat has such an absurd number of users currently, it’s one of the cheapest ways to introduce as many people as possible to your brand.

Live Stories are the other part of the Discover tab: these are collections of user’s stories that feature certain locations or major events. This month has seen stories ranging from Pokemon Go’s release, both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, Rio de Janeiro, to National Ice Cream Day. It feels like tapping through a friend’s Story, just made up of user-submitted snaps chosen by the Snapchat team.

Snap Ads Between Stories

This feature is fairly new. Snapchat just recently started autoplaying 10 second, full-screen vertical videos as a user swipes or finishes the last snap in a Story before starting the next one. You may have noticed a Hollister or a Star Trek ad randomly show up while browsing through your friends’ stories.

These are super effective because they are not invasive: unlike unskippable YouTube pre-roll ads, you can skip Ads Between Stories easily by tapping or swiping, just like you’d do with your old college friends who post too many photos of their baby. Snapchat also understands the impact of scarcity and keeps ad exposure to a minimum: the fewer ads you see, the more likely you are to remember the ones you do.

Notable Examples

McDonald’s Geofilter: Good old Mickey D’s was the first brand to buy a sponsored Geofilter around June last year. The art was super basic, but it was emblematic of the horrors and joys to come in the world of sponsored Snapchat. Kinda looked like it was made out of clip art, though.

PS: Anybody know where we can get our hands on one of those sweet NERF toys?

Democratic National Convention Live Story: Want to see what’s really going down at the DNC? This is where to check. This is the perfect example of a collaborative news story: thousands of reporters are there, taking videos, selfies, and giving 10 second opinions on the happenings. It doesn’t replace the actual news coverage, but supplements it with real reactions and updates.


But seriously, it got a ton of attention, people spent huge amounts of time messing with it, so a huge amount of impressions for Taco Bell.

Snapchat Ad Advantages: Interactivity

When you send that Tacoface selfie to 200 people, there’s no link to purchase a taco, only the life-affirming knowledge that Taco Bell still exists. So is Tacoface getting people to buy tacos? Or is it just a temporary diversion from the horrors of everyday life? 
It seems that the answer is both: 92% of Snapchat campaigns drove a positive lift in in-store sales of the advertised brand.

Snapchat Ad Advantages: Unblockability

Ad blockers are widely used on many web browsers, but there is no such service for Snapchat. Nor will there be, both because the ads appear within the closed technical ecosystem of the app and because sponsored content has become a huge part of Snapchat’s culture.

Brllnt Bottom Line

Compared to Facebook ads, Snapchat ads get as much as twice the visual attention, 5 times as much engagement, and over 10 times as many are viewed with sound. With a young demographic and numbers like that, it’s no surprise how ingrained promoted content has become on Snapchat. So like it or not, Tacoface is the future. Tacoface for President.