Are Snapchat’s Sequential Ads Ready for Primetime?

Snapchat’s reported decision to let advertisers purchase 'sequenced messaging' is more proof that momentum is shifting in favor of sequential ads

A few years ago, many marketers realized that the explosion of consumer touch points rendered the marketing funnel DOA as a marketing metaphor. Instead, this complex process was likened to a journey.

While marketers have switched metaphors, they haven’t tried any new approaches to getting their messages across. Often, consumers are still confronted with ads that are irrelevant. Perhaps it’s an awareness ad that’s actually targeted at someone who’s already aware of the product, or it’s a direct-response ad aimed at a consumer who isn’t nearly ready to buy.

The industry is slowly warming to a more effective technique—sequential advertising. Such messages are designed to move consumers along their journey with a series of ad creative.

Snapchat’s reported decision to let advertisers purchase “sequenced messaging” is more proof that momentum is shifting in favor of sequential ads. That’s good news for the industry as a whole.

Inside the Snapchat program

Snapchat’s program would let brands run back-to-back video ads with different creative in Discover, the application’s content hub. For instance, a brand might run three 10-second ads instead of one 30-second spot.

For advertisers, there are a variety of options for such ads. A brand might choose to tell a single narrative over the course of those three 10-second installments that has a common goal: To raise awareness. Another tactic is to split up the ads into three segments, serve one segment and then retarget that segment. That way, the marketer can be sure that the consumers who saw the second ad (and the third) also saw the first one.

Why sequencing is a better approach

This type of sequencing has been shown to be a more effective tactic than merely displaying the same ad over and over. A study from Refinery29, Adaptly and Facebook, for instance, found that view-through rates for sequenced ads were 87 percent higher than standard ads and they led to 56 percent higher opt-in rates for email subscriptions.

There are several reasons why sequential targeting makes intuitive sense. First, standard video ads were developed for a TV audience. Since targeting was and continues to be broad, blunt and effective for mostly a “spray and pray” strategy, it made sense to run one ad over and over. After all, there’s a good chance that someone in your target audience will be seeing it for the first time.

The perils of overexposure

However, we all know that advertisers have run afoul of this traditional approach. In a recent Reddit thread, one user singled out Jake from State Farm for being overplayed (“SCREW HIS STUPID KHAKIS!”). This happens online, too, of course, to the point where one could even get tired of seeing Kate Upton in a milk bath if she keeps interrupting your Words With Friends experience.

There’s a reason, in other words, why advertisers should implement frequency caps.

Happily, there’s still a way to continue messaging to customers without annoying them. Seeing the same ad may annoy consumers, but they don’t care if a marketer hits them with multiple ads, particularly if those ads advance a narrative.

An approach for the digital age

At a time when so much brand-to-consumer communication occurs on digital platforms, the create-one-run-everywhere model for campaigns no longer works. To be effective, marketers need to take a holistic approach to creative that includes multiple executions designed to offer different messaging depending on where the consumer is on their journey.

That level of creative commitment is required for brands to start speaking to consumers like they are real people and pay attention to what they’re doing.

For instance, a brand might see that a consumer made a purchase and then hit them with a thank-you ad or offer. That’s not something marketers typically do, but it’s something a human might, especially if they’ve just helped someone reach the end of their purchase journey.

James G. Brooks is founder and CEO of social video distribution platform GlassView.

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