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Snapchat Ads

Ohh, Snap! The Marketer’s Guide to Snapchat Ads


Snapchat: you might know it as that “thing where my niece looks at her phone and contorts her face into shapes never thought possible.” But that thing that so many in the advertising world have deemed “too immature a market” is now a force to be reckoned with.

A 100 MILLION user force, to be exact.

In 2008, many marketers said that you can’t tell a story or create meaningful connections with 140-characters. Shortly after, Twitter became a cornerstone of mainstream media, branding, publishing, and modern culture.

Now, marketers, moms, and pessimists alike scoff at shaky vertical video content that disappears after a day, if not instantly.

Scoff no more. There are 9,000 snaps sent per second. That means 9,000 embarrassing selfies, humorous videos, beautiful global landscapes, delicious meals, and heartwarming messages…every second. 

And now, Businesses can pay to join in on the fun.

On June 13th, Snapchat released a new Advertising API (Application Programming Interface), finally giving more advertisers access to a slice of the 7 billion daily video views. For now, a select group called Snapchat Partners have access. From what we know about advertising releases from Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Twitter, Snapchat Partners will be a solid sneak peek into a public Advertising API soon to come. 

Let’s break down what we know about Snapchat and how you can hit the ground running with Snapchat this year.

First, a quick Snapchat Glossary of Terms

Whether this article is the first time you’ve ever heard the words “Snap” and “Chat” together (no, this is not some new mode of communication where people physically snap their fingers at one another), or you think you are a Snapchat star, it’s good to understand this basic vocabulary for the popular app.

Be careful who you snapchat
Be careful who you snap.

Snaps: When you first open the Snapchat App, you will see what looks like a cartoonish version of your camera app. Snaps are either a still photo or up to 10-second video with various add-ons laid over the photo or video: multicolored text, hand-drawn doodles, emojis, stickers, or geofilters (we’ll explain geofilters soon). When you’re finished, you can send the snap (the completed photo or video) to one of three places:

  1. Your friends on Snapchat (which they can only look at once for the allotted seconds you allow them to).
  2. Your Story or “My Story
  3. Submit to participate in Live Events

Stories: If you decide your snap is truly a masterpiece, you can share it with all your friends at once by adding it to your story. Adding snaps to your story makes your snaps viewable to all friends and followers for 24 hours. 1 Billion Snapchat stories are viewed every day.

Live Events: If that masterpiece Snapchat is something so magnificent that you think the world deserves to see it, then (depending on your location) you can add it to a themed story called Live Events or Discover Events. If you’re in Los Angeles, it might be called “LA Story,” if it’s Christmas, there might be a “Christmas Story,” if it’s your Uncle Steve’s Birthday… and your Uncle is Steve Harvey, maybe. Stories are Snapchat’s way of curating the best content for its users the same way Facebook news and Twitter moments maintain a steady flow of fresh content for users. When looking at your friends’ stories, there will be a section titled “Live” where you can see snaps from around the world (London, Rome, Singapore, etc.) and from popular events (music festivals, parades, political debates, etc.).

snapchat discover feedDiscover: If you swipe left (no this is not Tinder, and don’t worry if you don’t know what Tinder means) you will find a section titled “Discover.” Here, various publications post everything from funny stories, to delicious recipes, to important news stories.




How-To: Watch me add a Snap to the “New York City” story

Ok, so now I know what Snapchat is, why should Marketers care about Snapchat?

Snapchat began as a simple solution to bringing social media and instant messaging together. But as its user base rapidly expanded, Snapchat saw a golden opportunity; and his name is Imran Khan.

Imran Khan was named Snapchat’s first Chief Strategy Officer in 2014. “I was, like, the 171st employee. And in a small company, you don’t have a defined role—you just jump in and start doing things,” Khan said in an interview with AdWeek. He was tasked with “redesigning the wheel” and finding a way to market to these young users.

It’s not Snapchat’s demographic breakdown that impresses marketers and investors today; it’s Snapchat’s Market Share: 77% of the entire college student population uses Snapchat.

Khan and the developers at Snapchat devised multiple opportunities for advertisers to make their mark. Let’s break down those opportunities.

Discover Ads

The main source of advertising is going to be with the Discover feature on Snapchat. In between those beautiful National Geographic photographs or that mouth-watering brownie recipe on the Food Network, marketers can slip in paid advertisements. Unlike a Facebook, Google, or even a YouTube ad, these video ads fill the entire screen with vivid images and full audio, while additionally allowing users to swipe up for more information. This groundbreaking “swipe up” feature changes the game of advertising, essentially turning advertisements into valuable content that can be found across multiple networks on Snapchat.

Key Stat: the swipe-up rate for Snap Ads is 5x higher than the average click-through rate on comparable platforms (source). 

In Summary: They’re quick. They’re native. They’re full screen. And they’re engaging.

Snapchat Geofilters

When a person is taking a snap, they have the option to add a geofilter. This is a logo or some designated graphic design that correlates to the location of that person. However, often there are sponsored geofilters. In the video example above, we see sponsored geofilters from: Starbucks, Staples, Redbull, and Disney.

Key Stat: In the US, a single National Sponsored Geofilter typically reaches 40% to 60% of daily Snapchatters.

Create your Own Snapchat Geofilter to accomplish your goals: 

  • Improve employee brand engagement with an Office geofilter like Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago: ogilvy & mather snapchat filter
  • Event advertisement
  • Standout from the crowd at tech conferences
  • What else? Let us know in the comments, we’ll feature your ideas in an upcoming post

snapchat geofilters

Seen here: Snaps taken by annoying teenager in cool places viewed by us while stuck at our desks.

Snapchat Lenses

For even deeper user engagement, Snapchat added Lenses to its arsenal this year. Lenses are live filters that identify human faces and apply a wide variety of filters. Shoutout to Apple’s Phone Booth App. 

dog snapchat gif

Snapchat lense shenanigans.

Some say Snapchat is building the world’s largest facial recognition database with the technology. Just as powerful is what this platform lets advertisers do. With Sponsored Lenses, companies like Gatorade can dump the championship water bucket over your head or Taco Bell can turn you into a Taco.

taco bell snapchat filter

These lenses are overlays or filters that track the movement of your face to create various, animated images.

Key Takeaway: You can’t get more brand engagement than turning people’s faces into Tacos or dumping a large fry over their head.

Key Stat (from Gatorade’s Sponsored Lens)gatorade snapchat campaign

Snapchat Partners

Of all the developments for marketers on Snapchat this year, Snapchat Partners is one of the biggest. This is the guinea pig batch of agencies that will specialize in and pave the way for the future of Snapchat Ads. These agencies will set the bar for developing sponsored content on Snapchat. Here’s the FULL list of advertising agencies apart of the Snapchat Partner program. Expect some case studies from this group, just as Instagram did with its early users. 


How to prep your Snapchat Ad campaign for launch day

There are three core considerations when creating ads for Snapchat: audience,  duration, and frequency. Snapchat brings never before seen attributes to these categories that you need to be aware of:

1. The Snapchat Audience

Snapchat Ads audienceMillennials and college students are your best-bet target audience with Snapchat. It’s easy to get excited about reaching this traditionally difficult demographic, but you are forewarned: just because you have access to the market doesn’t mean you have their attention.


First, you have to understand what type of content successfully engages this audience. Like a lot of Digital Marketing questions, the answers are in front of us. Look no further than the current content produced in Snapchat’s discover section. By emulating and producing engaging content, you can: 

  1. Capture the user’s attention
  2. Disguise your ad to seem more like interesting content as opposed to just another disruptive ad. 

Though Snapchat Ads are identical to native content, sans the “Sponsored” banner, it’s essential that you maintain a valuable and pleasurable experience to avoid a negative viewing experience.

2. The Duration of Snapchat Ads

Snapchat Ads are a unique video viewing experience both organically and for paid ads. Snapchat caters to short attention spans. So, creating ads that work in 20 seconds or less is crucial to sustaining the viewer. The sooner you can encourage the user to swipe up for more info, the more likely they are to do so.

3. Understanding the Frequency of Snapchat Ads 

How often do we see Snapchat Ads? The same questions surrounded Instagram earlier this year. It didn’t take long after the public release to find Instagram’s cadence of 1 sponsored post per 10 regular pieces of content.

AdWeek recently did a study to figure out marketers habits on Snapchat. They found that brands average a whopping 26 posts per week (prepare for the groans of your social media interns). What is unusual, however, is that these 26 posts per week are usually only stretched over two days of the week. The verdict is still out as to whether this method of story bursts is the most effective routine with Snapchat, so it is important to test out varying frequencies of updates on Snapchat (anywhere from 2 days to 5 days is suggested to not overwhelm users).

However, Frequency only matters if you decide to make the bold step to maintain a Snapchat account just for your brand. AdWeek found that brands are slow to using Snapchat. Right now it is such a new tool for advertising, so by jumping on the Snapchat bandwagon now, your brand has the opportunity to be a pioneer in Snapchat advertising.

There is no easy science to forming the perfect ad for the dreaded 18-34 year old demographic. But with an app like Snapchat, that market just become a lot more accessible, and will help build the path for the future of social media advertising.

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About the Author

The Steven Spielberg of Content Marketing at AdHawk, he is determined to find the most valuable of marketing secrets his mentors and the internet have to offer, all while scored to the Indiana Jones theme song.