Why Snapchat Ads Are An Oxymoron

Snapchat and advertising seems to me to be two functions diametrically opposed - an oxymoron if you will. How can any marketing campaign make an impact, if by design it’s fleeting in nature? Since Snapchat is a messaging app that delivers status updates, photos and/or videos viewable for 10 seconds only — is that enough time to leave a lasting impression?

Snap Decisions

Currently Snapchat is tooling around with an idea they’re calling ‘Snapchat Discovery,’ that will feature ads added to status updates (aka “Snaps”). While not a lot is known about the format this monetization model will take, it seems improbable that users would have enough time to read both the message and the ad, if both are fleeting before their very eyes.

According to the TV monitoring service Neilsen, while the 15-second TV ad is already “the new black,” it has yet to achieve the same level of audience engagement as its 30-second and one-minute predecessors. According to one of their reports, “perfecting the 15-second ad won’t be an easy task.”

Even as smartphone ads are gaining more acceptance with today’s younger and more mobile audience, 15-second ads require a lot more finesse to make an impact versus ads that remain in view for longer periods of time - or in the case of print ads, something you can review any time you want.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

The old-school advertising principle of doing something often enough, to make it a habit might be what Snapchat is banking on. From those Mad Men pioneer days of advertising, we learned repetition was one of the building blocks of an effective ad campaign.

However, while a Snapchat 10-second ad co-joined with a status update, photo or video may gain some brand awareness over time -- if we see it often enough -- there is also the risk this type of repetition can become counter-productive too.

Repetition can build brand familiarity, but it can also lead to consumer fatigue, where consumers become so tired of an ad that they either tune it out or actively avoid the product.

This could easily be the case when users are trying to focus on the actual intent of the Snapchat message and their minds are automatically turning-off the extraneous ads positioned in the same frame. Considered “push advertising,” this is exactly the type of promotion Web 2.0 had replaced with “user-generated content” and “magnetic marketing,” when social media first entered our zeitgeist 10 years ago. So why resort to something today’s digerati no longer have a preference for?

Disposable Pornography

In my previous blog, “Does Snapchat's Sexting Lead To Boom, Bubble Or Just Disposable Pornography?” the other issue in adding advertisement to snaps is the amount of ’sexting’ that Snapchat’s engendered since its inception. For legitimate ads to be included in a text that is lewd or lascivious is something Snapchat is going to have to hard, long look at (no pun intended). An automated ad platform that delivers advertisements no matter what the content runs the risk of losing advertisers who don’t want to be associated with such messaging.

Snapchat Stories

Snapchat appears to be cognizant of these challenges and limitations and have been actively reconfiguring their original platform to counter these types of criticisms.

In the last eight months, it has introduced several marketer-friendly features including videos they have branded as “Snapchat Stories.”

With this feature, the app's millions of users can weave together collections of photos and video into stories. Brands, too, have been quick to adopt stories. Similar to TV ads, brands can make their stories 30- or 60-seconds long. Also, Stories don't disappear after a few seconds. They can be watched again and again in a 24-hour period.

It’s not a SNAP?

So as conjectured, Snapchat has to either re-invent itself or expand upon it’s original premise to make it a viable advertising platform. To do it right, it’s going to have to rely heavily on cross-promotion with other social networks that have been successful in building their own advertising monetization mouse-traps. But as we’ve seen while Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have found their sea legs in this space, the minute they take their eyes off the ball, the stock market is the barometer that tips us off when and if their latest advertising tactic is faltering.

For other Snapchat articles, these links will take you to my previous posts on the topic: