Snapchat Ads – Back to the Future
McDonalds’s, Taco Bell and even GE are just a few of the brands rushing to Snapchat in an attempt to stake their claim on 10 seconds of millennial mindshare. And Snapchat is now reportedly working on a service called Snapchat Discovery that will make it easier to get ads in front of Snapchat users. As we reported to you yesterday, Snapchat is unveiling an entire suite of ad-related activities and services designed to bring in revenue to Snapchat.
But if you are a CMO thinking, “We gotta get on this snap-chat thing now,” you’re probably going to want to at least vet what I’m about to tell you. With news of Snapchat’s billions in valuation, huge user base, and early reports of 100% type engagement, it’s easy to come down with a case of “Shiny Object Syndrome.” I caution you strongly, however, to really think through if any money at all from your budget should go into Snapchat. You should really ask yourself if this is something you want to be a part of, and if your logic of “borrowed interest” is really going to work in this media channel.
In short, I think right now, Snapchat ads are a bad play.
I like to Watch
Unlike most ad men, I actually use these technologies, Snapchat, Kakoa Talk, Kik, etc. I have to know what they’re about for two reasons – one, as the father of two daughters, they want to use this technology all the time and I feel compelled to understand the risks, and two, given my position as a CMO consultant, I need to understand all types of media.
Snapchat, Vine, etc., it’s utterly driven by purient interests. In other words, it’s porn. Snapchat may not like me saying this… and others may get bent about it. Don’t believe me? Ok – read this piece. Only 8 days old. There’s a new one about “Snapchat Porn” all the time. There are entire sites dedicated to making these ephemeral type sites – Snapchat, Vine, etc., into enduring ones – mostly archiving child pornography. Yeah, I’ll say that again – child pornography. Again, don’t believe me? Ok – here’s a twitter page tweeting the allegedly ephemeral pictures from Snapchat (warning NSFW – but the truth is gruesome sometimes. At least this channel claims everyone is over 18 years old… others are not so obvious). I was also shocked to find a subreddit that dealt entirely with Snapchat Nudes (I hope the cops are paying attention to this – strikes me as pedophile central). When a 15 year old snaps a pic of herself naked, and sends it to her 15 year old love interest – and he sends her back his stuff (a la Brett Favre) – that my friends is a felony… it’s child pornography. What’s worse, it’s not just kids playing with kids.
So yeah, let me put my brand in the middle of that? Are you insane?
Let’s be frank – up until this moment, Snapchat was basically used by horny teenagers who were busy playing “Sex lies and videotape” with their cell phones. As a consequence, ask yourself this question “Yeah, is that what we’re about?” Maybe if you’re Trojan Condoms, this makes tons of sense. However, I shake my head thinking about the likes of McDonalds, GE, and Taco Bell, being compared against penis enlargement pills, fake LV bags, and prostitution solicitations, which are all over Snapchat.
Not to mention all the porn directly advertised in services like Snapchat (Kik is particularly bad).
That’s what that medium, however, is about – sexual voyeurism. It’s plain and simple. Nobody goes to Snapchat to talk to grandma…
That said, let me take head on some of the “wow it’s great” reporting… particular, this article in AdWeek about Taco Bell:
Taco Bell’s Nicholas Tran said Snapchat followers are “crazy engaged.” When the brand sends a Snap, 90 percent of friends who open a message view it in its entirety, and these can be 5-minute-long digital photo-video collages, he added.
Taco Bell has more than 200,000 friends on the app, but it doesn’t know the exact amount, which speaks to the fact that brands are still marketing in the dark there.
Taco Bell was among the early brands to join and test the potential for reaching its young crowd, almost 30 million users strong, according to the latest reported figures.
“The platform is one of the most engaging places for us to play,” Tran said. He estimated that up to 80 percent of Taco Bell’s followers open its Snaps (90 percent of whom view them in their entirety.) Snaps can be simple photos set to self-destruct within seconds or they can be Snapchat Stories, an amalgam of messages, photos and videos that run for minutes and are available for rewatching over a 24-hour period.
Ok, I’m sure selling Tacos to millennials this way makes sense. Watching the ad at 2am stoned inbetween porn sessions I’m sure drives a lot of taco sales. But GE? What do they think they’ll get out of it?
Or any serious brand? I mean, would you naturally think Rolex should sponsor the Red Light District in France? Probably not. Or what about having hospitality brands sponsor sex? Again – dicey.
How is McDonalds going to react when a Big Mac is sandwiched between two underage girls photographs being shown to a pedophile?
It is beyond me why anyone serious would think about pouring a dime into this technology. Yes – porn exists on Facebook. Heck – porn even exists on LinkedIn. But the entire adoption of this technology, and the reason why it has so many users, is because it’s basically a breeding ground of pornography.
Beyond Baltic Avenue Advertising
It’s not just the fact that Snapchat’s history and user base are the low rent losers of Baltic Avenue (I love the part in that article where author jokes about Snapchat’s email going, “Just after we posted, Snapchat put up a blog post apologizing if spam had interrupted your regularly scheduled sexting activities.”)
The porn aspect of Snapchat could probably be cleaned up (although I suspect it’s cost prohibitive). The very fact of trying to insert yourself into private communications strikes me as utterly useless.
I’m always fascinated by what medium of communication wound up being advertising sponsored. Radio & TV – obviously no brainers. We know that story. But ask yourself for a moment, why not the telephone? I mean it could have been that way. It could have been “We’ll connect you to your party in a moment, but first… this message from…” followed by a 30 second message. Think about that for a moment, would you have agreed to a free telephone service in exchange for listening to ads (presuming the calls aren’t emergency to 9-1-1 or something of the like). I don’t think most people would have accepted that, and they would have resented the imposition of the branded content as payment. In the end, the telephone is about private communications between two parties. Advertisers beware. I think the same can be said potentially about Snapchat – brands should tread very cautiously into the realm of two-way private communications.
When you want to show your friend your private parts on Snapchat – are you really going to care about a coupon off on potato chips, hambugers, etc.? Probably not. Do they get watched? Sure, I have no doubt they get watched because it’s like the earliest moments of TV – everything is part of the experience, including the ads. But that will wear off quickly, in my view, making Snapchat a bad idea. What kind of borrowed interest is there in either a) pedophiles, b) horny kids, c) texting my buds and not caring what you have to say… I mean, take your pick. Also, things will change dramatically when it goes from having a handful of brands on Snapchat – to having EVERYONE advertising on Snapchat (presuming we all lose our collective minds).
Another fundamental question is what Snapchat’s actual reach is. Personally, I call Shennanigans. To convey its growth, the company announced in September that its users were sending 350 million “snaps” daily, up from 200 million in June. However, that’s the equivalent of talking about “hits” to a website back in the 1990’s – it’s not a measure at all of who’s really on the service, or how many unique users it has or what portion of them are teenagers — the demographic that’s believed to dominate the service. When a media channel doesn’t have confirmed numbers – it’s because they know the real numbers – and they suck.
The final question is this – ok – let’s say the porn issue can get cleaned up. Let’s say it winds up being millennials. How is that a sustainable viable media channel? Many 20-30 year olds in developed countries are living at home with their parents at the moment. That’s an unfortunate fact. So how is advertising going to work for a serious brand like GE? How is it going to work for the brands that aren’t selling the 2 dollar item? It’s one thing to try and sell burritos to a kid who manages to scrape together the 50 bucks a month for a cell phone. But is this market stable enough to try and sell them a car? Would GM seriously consider putting 100M into the channel to try and sell a 30K car to a bunch of unemployed or underemployed horny nude-pic taking millennials?
Not to be gauche about it – but that’s what we’re talking about here. Porn issues aside – is this market even worthwhile reaching through this channel? If the estimates about Snapchat are right – then most of the user base isn’t even over 20 years old – which makes the challenge even more difficult.
My Thoughts – Watch, Wait, and then… maybe.
I realize the pull is strong. You don’t want to be left behind. You want to show you’re being innovative. So you may say “Yeah! Snapchat!” Unlike the other photosharing services, unlike Facebook, Twitter, etc., it has a rather dark and twisted history in my view. Snapchat has basically been about one thing most of its life in social media – sex. As a result, I think you have to really think about that when you’re deciding to put your brand into that channel.
Maybe Snapchat cleans up its act. If it really wants the big ad dough, it’s going to have to satisfy people that it’s basically not just an internet brothel of porn. It’s also going to need to be honest about the numbers relating to reach, frequency, activation, etc.
Maybe then it might be worthwhile. Until then… I’ll pass.