How Snapchat’s Pace of Innovation Is Pushing the Industry Forward

Opinion: 95 percent of impressions for Snap Ads were served programmatically

35 percent of U.S. teens use Snapchat most often
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In its short history, Snapchat has repeatedly broken new ground with innovations in its application and ads, setting a breakneck pace for other platforms to follow. The result has been sticky usage, with 35 percent of U.S. teens saying that they use Snapchat most often—higher than any other social network, according to Pew Research Center—and increased advertiser adoption as brands and agencies spent 234 percent more year-over-year through 4C’s platform on Snapchat in the first quarter, the fastest growth of all supported marketplaces.

Most recently, Snapchat rolled out shoppable lenses and Sponsored Snappables to help brands capitalize on commerce and gaming trends with augmented reality.

When it comes to AR, Snapchat has reached significant scale, with 70 million people playing with AR Snaps each day for an average of three minutes each based on figures provided by the company. Doing the math here puts this activity on par with short-form video consumption in terms of daily time spent, but much more immersive in terms of audience engagement.

Masters of scale

As all marketers know, leading-edge product development doesn’t always go hand in hand with broad scale. Snapchat has solved this conflict by prioritizing all ad products for programmatic delivery.

In other words, rather than just making these formats available to its internal sales team, Snapchat moves quickly to push them through to its self-serve platform and official ads API (application-programming interface) partners. This enables brands of all shapes and sizes to leverage new features—not just the biggest advertisers with the biggest budgets, as has traditionally been the way of the marketing world.

Programmatic placement not only helps smaller advertisers come on board, but it helps drive efficiencies in pricing, targeting and measurement. Brands can leverage their own first-party data to reach the precise audiences that they deem most valuable and integrate third-party tools to track results all the way through to sales.

In fact, at a time when Facebook is running away from third-party custom audiences—Partner Categories—due to fallout from Cambridge Analytica, Snapchat is pressing forward with partners like Acxiom to connect activity on Snapchat to offline purchase behavior.

These advantages certainly bolster standard Snap Ads, which were quite revolutionary when first released in terms of offering full-screen vertical video views.

In its last earnings report, Snap Inc. disclosed that 95 percent of impressions for Snap Ads were served programmatically, so clearly, the format has scaled.

This also helps gives context for why its pricing has droppedؙ—in the first quarter of 2018, cost per thousand impressions for 4C’s advertisers were lower on Snapchat than on any of the other mobile and social channels. Through an open auction marketplace, pricing power shifts from seller to buyer, which may cause angst for Snap Inc. investors but delight for Snapchat advertisers.

Make it snappy, please!

They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, and Snapchat has certainly had its share of copycats with rolling out new features. My hope—and probably Evan Spiegel’s nightmare—is that the rest of the industry clones everything Snapchat is doing in terms of taking the latest technologies and making them available for brands to connect with consumers through programmatic pipes.

In the end, the battle for attention will be won by the companies that can break through the cluttered media landscape, keep audiences engaged and compel them to action. While we’re still very early in the lifecycle of Snap Inc. as a company, it has shown tremendous potential to check these boxes, and the rest of the industry would do well to follow its lead.

Aaron Goldman is chief marketing officer at marketing technology company 4C Insights.