Weekly Roundup, Instagram Copies Snapchat and Other Drama

Branded filters can be lots of fun when the concept is well thought-out. They are also received so much better than interruptive Snapchat ads.

For this week’s blog post, I decided I would share my opinion about the latest news surrounding Snapchat, its controversial branded filters, its interruptive ads and the buzz about Instagram, “stealing” Snapchat’s Stories feature.

1) Controversial Branded Filters on Snapchat

I am well aware that I am not equipped to comment on how or why people responded so negatively to a Snapchat filter that was released on August 10th. A company rep called the filter in question “anime-inspired” but a lot of people were not so convinced, many even going so far as to call it yellowface. This incident came after the company was already under fire for releasing a Bob Marley-themed mask filter, to which many users responded with outrage over blackface.

The specific point I would like to make around these two controversies isn’t related to Snapchat’s design decisions, but more the “aftermath” of such contentious filters and the limitations of Snapchat’s own platform. Snapchat had thesefilters on the app each for the good amount of a day, meaning that it can be assumed that thousands, if not millions of the app’s 200 million users shared, received and took screenshots of these controversial filters.

Importantly, when any marketing campaign (however innocently intentioned) “goes awry” on the Internet these days, the response is viral, immediate and can be completely debilitating for a brand or company. Snapchat provides no protection for brands who want to advertise using their branded filters. There is no way to take down or delete the content already circulating on Snapchat. It seems to me that any brand thinking about doing a sponsored filter on Snapchat only needs to witness Snapchat’s inability to protect its own brand on its own platform to decide the risk is too great, and to take its dollars elsewhere.

2) More interruptive Snapchat ads?

I’ve commented on this before, but the newest available data further shows that Snapchat is all about weakening the user experience with conventional ads: putting short, skippable ads in between articles in the Discovery section, as well as between friends’ stories. Adweek recently reported that Snapchat likes interruptive ads so much that they’re putting even more in between users friends’ stories. Why Snapchat? Why? Supposedly Snapchat is very aware of the user-experience but this form of advertising can only serve to interrupt users from their otherwise enjoyable Snapchat experience. There must be a better revenue model that’s sustainable long-term!

MarketingProfs wrote an article that aims to list what Millennial hate about interruptive Snapchat ads. One statement that I fully agree with is,

“Sending relevant, engaging content to your target consumer is the key to Snapchat advertising success.”

Essentially, Millennials don’t mind marketing, if it is relevant and engaging. And what could be more relevant or engaging than a branded post put out on social by your own friend or a favorite influencer? Don’t interrupt me Snapchat, with third-party, interruptive ads. Give me something I want: messages from friends, fun esperiences, and perhaps even a relevant, clickable coupon from time to time for my favorite store.

3) Snap-gate

Unless you make it your job to avoid computers and mobile apps, you have probably heard about Instagram mimicking Snapchat’s My Stories functionality. You can learn more about how people are reacting to this here. Oddly, Instagram Stories has yet to offer branded filters. This ability for app users to co-create content with their favorite brands is so important and crucial to the future of mobile marketing.

Going further, a lot has been said about the subtle differences in the two apps’ capabilities as being used to target different audiences. Instagram Stories is supposed to have an easier user-experience for older generations confused with all the options that Snapchat provides. Snapchat audiences, Millennials and Gen Y, are, on the other hand, apparently thrilled with having more numerous options and outlets for self-expression. Competition between the two apps makes for great drama, but, thinking long-term, I feel like the winning app will be the one that enables brands to co-create content with users vs. ones that focus on garnering large audiences only to then interrupt them with commercial messages they will, of course, only endeavor to skip over.


Ava Pavao is a thought leader in mobile marketing with a unique perspective. In her current role at Vivoom, Ava works with the world’s top brands to help create, execute and measure shared media campaigns and, as a Millennial, herself, she’s active on a variety of social channels where brands are always trying to connect with her and her peers. Very few have such a unique lens (and the data) to see what works and what doesn’t in the world of mobile marketing. She shares her thoughts on this blog and is not afraid to let brands know where they are succeeding and failing in their attempts to reach her demographic.

If you’re interested in discussing mobile marketing with Ava, please connect with her on LinkedIn.