Snap's David Norris: self-serve shift will help brands see AR lenses as 'media opportunity'

Brands like Specsavers, Adidas, Match.com and more have been among those trialing Snap's various lens formats this year

By the end of this month, advertisers will be able to purchase most of Snapchat’s ad formats programmatically with the platform rolling out a tool for all advertisers dubbed ‘reach and frequency’ that lets brands purchase its popular AR lenses in a more automated, targeted way.

The move marks the latest play from Snap to show clients that Lenses have evolved from an expensive brand awareness tool to a targeted – if playful – performance buy. It also hopes that increasing the amount of ad inventory available using programmatic tools might just help assuage investor concerns too.

Speaking to The Drum, Snap’s UK creative strategy lead David Norris said: “It’s not just the creative opportunity that’s evolving but also the media opportunity. There’s the ability now for brands to create their targeted audience and understand their guaranteed scale that they’re going to reach, and for us that’s really exciting.”

Brands like Specsavers, Adidas, Match.com and more have been among those trialing Snap's various lens formats during the past 12 months. This now includes an actionable 'shoppable AR' offering, where users can buy products without leaving the app, although this type of buy isn't available on its self-serve platform yet.

Essentially, the wider rollout of the reach and frequency tool will allow brands, and their agencies, to plan and buy AR lenses plus vertical video ads (or Snap Ads in Snapchat speak) in advance via Snap's ads manager platform. Brands can still purchase a lens on a national level.

Advertisers using the reach and frequency tool will also be able to take advantage of long-term fixed prices, plus "improved targeting" offering better controls over which audiences engage with an ad.

In the UK Unilever, Google and Microsoft were involved in the beta-testing stage, trialing a product that brings Snap in line with Google and Facebook in terms of its auction process.

The move will ultimately drive prices on Snapchat, a platform advertisers once considered too expensive, down and ultimately make sure ads are served with more pinpoint precision to its some 191 million daily users.

However, Norris thinks that streamlining Snap's services in this way will help "democratise" the way brands use the camera in their marketing and will "absolutely" quash the perception that a lens is still a costly buy.

"Looking at the lens opportunity ... you still have that national lens buy that will give you that mass scale, buzz and huge reach - but obviously that's going to come with a greater price tag to help build that impact.

"Building in the flexibility around reach and frequency will enable a more efficient, and guaranteed scale for an advertiser ... we're just trying to build in more opportunities besides the launch of lens studio to enable brands to create and activate lenses."

The move to make more room for programmatic comes just over under a year after Snap first unveiled its self-serve platform. In February, the platform experienced a boost on the stock market thanks to its investments in the adtech space, with chief strategy officer, Imran Khan, saying the introduction of an auction model helped double the number of advertisers spending on the platform.

Snap will be hoping today's move will calm investor jitters, with the firm's losses in the first three months of the year rising to $357m; up from $350m on the previous quarter.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.