Brands have been quick to make moves onto Snapchat. The site offers something that almost all advertisers want – access to an engaged, young, mobile audience.
So far, Snapchat has been selling itself to ad execs as a brand building platform. It has mostly worked with the top global brands which have the budgets for bigger campaigns and receive dedicated help from Snapchat so that ads are in-keeping with other content on the app and do not disrupt the overall user experience.
However the service is now understood to be plotting to launch an API that would lower the barrier to entry and enable Snapchat to offer a wider range of ad services – from better targeting to direct response ads. According to Digiday, Snapchat is talking with partners with plans to start testing as early as Spring, although a full API launch might be come for another year.
Snapchat is not commenting on the report.
Becoming a fully fledged ad platform
With demand for advertising on Snapchat growing, this latest move is a “natural development”, according to social media agency We Are Social.
“The opportunity to create innovative campaigns and reach a younger audience means that demand from brands to advertise on Snapchat is increasing, and the development of a robust API will both accelerate this and lower the barriers to entry,” explains We Are Social’s social media manager Conor Lynch.
“It should also help develop the platform’s targeting functionality and the use of its existing audience data, which is currently quite limited. Snapchat is moving into the same space as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in becoming a fully fledged social advertising platform.”
The move is a sign of Snapchat’s desire to move beyond being the cool kid of the mobile world to a fully fledged social ad platform. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all started off with smaller plays in advertising before opening up their platforms.
The latest example, Instagram, released its API last year, allowing partners such as Adobe, Salesforce and Kenshoo to develop services to help brands. That includes services such as targeting as well as more data on ad effectiveness. Instagram has since opened up its ad platform to all brands and most markets globally.
Proving ad effectiveness
Where Snapchat falls down is on ad effectiveness. According to a survey by eMarketer, US brand and ad agency execs score Snapchat a D (on a scale from A+ to F) for ad effectiveness, behind all the other major social media platforms. It also performs the worst in terms of driving ROI, driving sales, ad measurement and analytics and targeting effectiveness.
Georgia Burke, social media manager at creative agency JWT, explains: “Snapchat is the coolest kid in the world of social media, with a huge engaging mobile audience at its fingertips. However up until now, reach is all it could offer to brands. Brands were apprehensive about spending money on the platform because it was very difficult to measure the effectiveness of a campaign.”
Opening an API should help change that. It should enable brands to target ads based on people’s demographics and interests and give them the data they need to measure effectiveness.
That in turn will encourage more marketers to use the platform and help boost its revenues.
“If Snapchat opens a typical API, brands will be able to confidently measure the success of their adverts, encouraging more to start using it as advertising platforms.”
Georgia Burke, social media manager, JWT
“It will give brands access to a very engaged specific audience and the ability to measure the success of their adverts, which is a win/win situation,” explains Burke.
Taking a controlled approach
However she cautions that Snapchat will need to take a controlled approach to opening up its ad platform to ensure ads do not disrupt the user experience and drive away the young, engaged, mobile audience that has made them such a draw for advertisers.
Marketers will also have to ensure they are making ads and content that fits with user expectations and is relevant to their brand.
“Snapchat needs to stay true to itself in order to reassure users that they are the same platform they have always been. Brands will need to create engaging content that natively merges with the fun, of the moment, organic content that is already present on Snapchat,” she concludes.