With Snapchat being valued at $10bn, and the platform seeing over 700 million snaps and one billion stories (a timeline of messages that can be viewed for 24 hours), it is no wonder that brands are turning to the platform.
With a GlobalWebIndex survey finding a 60 per cent increase in users of the platform between Q3 and Q4 2013 – and figures still growing strong – and the messaging platform taking its first proper steps towards advertising with Snapchat Discovery, should advertisers give it a stronger foothold in their media plans?
Christian Purser, chief digital officer at M&C Saatchi, is dubious. “We’ve seen some interesting uses of Snapchat from the likes of Evian and MTV, and the scale of the opportunity among a hard-to-reach demographic is tantalising for clients. But the fact of the matter is, we must tread carefully in this previously ad-free sphere to avoid aggravating those we wish to engage.
"At the moment, Snapchat offers little more than a novelty PR opportunity for most, but as the platform’s functionality develops we will see forward-thinking, youth-targeted businesses begin to make the most of this ephemeral service.”
Betfair was the first betting brand to get on board with Snapchat, using the channel to offer exclusive odds, and still uses the platform for promotion.
Stephen Mault, head of media at Betfair, said that the brand turned to Snapchat because it wanted to do something that was “innovative, fun and playful”.
“The reason we wanted to work with them in the first place was to take advantage of that new media channel, which potentially other brands weren’t using, and allow us to be quite playful in the promotions that we do.
“With Snapchat and the six-second rule we could be quite fun in terms of delivering those fast paced and exciting promos for our customers.”
Looking forward to using Snapchat for Betfair, he pointed out that this depends on if gambling ads would be allowed. If they were, he said that it is a commercial platform that they would consider for their audience.
When asked if he thought that other brands should look towards Snapchat as an advertising platform, Mault admitted that it is not something for all brands.
“It will lend itself really well to some fun and interesting creative. I don’t think it will be for all brands - some brands will want longer dwell time, the more serious brands might not get as much out of it. But for those innovative and technology-savvy brands who want to communicate in a fun and interesting way, it will lend itself in a way that consumers will get something out of – and I think advertisers will too.”
Earlier this year, research from Sumpto found that 73 per cent of college students would open a snap from a brand they know and 45 per cent would open a snap from a brand they don’t know. Does this make students – and young people in general – the primary audience?
One such business which used Snapchat to its advantage was Co-operative Electrical, which held a Mission Impossible-style competition last year to offer students £30 off a laptop with a Snapchat code, which they had to write down or remember before the message deleted itself.
A spokesperson for The Co-operative Group said: “We always like to look for innovative ways to communicate with our members and our customers. New platforms give us the opportunity to reach new audiences, which is why we have used Snapchat in the past. We will be interested to see how Snapchat Discovery develops.”
James Whatley, social media director at Ogilvy & Mather, said: “It is clear that – particularly on the other side of the pond – Snapchat is the channel-du-jour. From Groupon to Calvin Klein, brands are clambering to get to the audience of tomorrow.
“As usual, it will always come down to the objective. I’ve seen a couple of Snapchat proposals come and go and the latter part of that has happened due to a lack of clear objective (simply being novel isn’t enough, not anymore). What Snapchat offers is almost a cast iron way to access the much sought after millennial audience. It’s just the how and the why that brands need to get their head around.”
MTV, whose target audience is in the age range most likely to use Snapchat, used the platform to announce the nominees of the VMAs this year.
While the nominees were, of course, announced on the MTV website, those who signed up to MTV on Snapchat were able to discover the nominees first.
While not advertising, this use of the platform showed that a target audience can clearly be reached using the channel.
The success for MTV came because the campaign did not lead to a negative or interruptive experience for users.
“Thinking of creative opportunities, Snapchat presents an exciting prospect. The ‘Rio Story’ that was created for the 2014 World Cup Final was an example of this: authentic user-generated content which managed to seem so personal yet was shared with millions. It is important then, for brands to make sure that any engagement does not interrupt the users’ experience, and that content remains personal and authentic,” suggested Libby Robinson, managing director at M&C Saatchi Mobile.
The problem that could be seen when trying to replicate this in an advertising campaign, she added.
“The case needs to be made that Snapchat can deliver the products that deliver efficient results, something that Facebook and Twitter have been working on for years. Without evidence of effectiveness, at this time it may be difficult to justify investment in the platform. However this is without a doubt a key priority for Snapchat and I'm sure we will see some interesting product developments in the near future.”
With Snapchat Discovery expected to launch in November, the future of advertising on Snapchat could be decided in the next few months.