Here Are the Pros and Cons of Snapchat Taking on Ads

Data is both a blessing and a curse

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With Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel confirming long-held speculation that his mobile-social app will soon debut ads, we reached out to marketing practitioners for reaction. From an advertising-minded perspective, here are the pros and cons of adding ads to the app:

Pro #1. It's a brand's chance to be cool

While hanging with the young crowd won't always be easy, consultant David Deal suggested, there are high-risk, high-reward factors in play. "Snapchat ads are perfectly suited for digital natives who prefer instant engagement," he said. "[They] may also spark excitement about ads because by their nature they will contain scarce content."

Dan Lubetsky, senior manager of marketing and analysis at SapientNitro, contended that the platform is "primed for native, contextual advertising." Indeed, that's just the kind of marketing that Gen Y is accustomed to experiencing.

Pro #2. It's a new opt-in platform

"Since users are given the option to opt-in to receive ads, the content must be entertaining and engaging enough for users to want to receive it, and stay away from the old banner ad approach that is no longer effective," said Esha Shah, manager of mobile strategy and innovation at Fetch.

Pro #3. The data

Snapchat averages 100 million monthly visitors, most hailing from the coveted Gen Y demo. Jon Hook, head of mobile at MediaCom, added that "there are 700 million snaps, 16.5 million daily active users, with an average of 14 visits a day. Why? Because this platform is how the millennials want to interact with each other."

Con #1. The data (targeting/"lack thereof" version)

"When Snapchat ad formats roll out, they will offer little-to-zero data-driven targeting capabilities due to the posting and quick deleting of users short form video snippets," said SapientNitro's Lubetsky. "Another social media channel beta-testing advertising to a select group of brands, Snapchat may have the audience, but trust behind analytics, targeting and media verification will surely be lacking."

Paul Bremer, chief revenue officer at Rhythm, asserted that "untargeted ads that appear between 'stories' is, on the surface, a fairly mundane offering."

Added Vishal Sapra, vp of global brand development at MRY: "Snapchat ads won't be able to contend with Facebook and Google until brands can precisely target their desired audience."

Con #2. Unless you offer cheap tacos, the kids won't likely care for 'push' marketing

"This audience doesn't want advertising, they want a brand experience. And that is what you can tease this audience with on Snapchat," said MediaCom's Hook.

Deal added that the ads could "flop if they come across as intrusive. … The open question is: How many brands will be able to make the transition to Snapchat-style engagement as Taco Bell has?"

Con #3. These eyeballs don't stay still long enough

"Snapchat users' attention span is very short," Lubetsky said, "and it's highly unlikely that they will be receptive to advertising seeing that user content posts range from one to 10 seconds."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.