High-Risk, High-Reward: Snapchat’s Advertising Revolution

Mobile advertising requires striking what can seem like an impossible balance: attracting users’ attention without interrupting whatever else they are doing.

Mobile advertising requires striking what can seem like an impossible balance: attracting users’ attention without interrupting whatever else they are doing. The trick is to be interruptive through engaging, well-placed advertising without interrupting.

Although mobile advertising has evolved over the past 10 years away from SMS messages and pop-ups to informative, relevant banners and native ads, media companies are still struggling to find the best balance of ads that resonate without disrupting the user experience.

Take The Next Web, which launched a new ad format that pushes articles out of the way and automatically starts playing a video ad that is nearly impossible to exit. One commenter called it “the most infuriating hide-the-content ad ploy I’ve ever seen.”

Or consider The Atlantic, which found itself embroiled in a controversy for publishing sponsored content in the form of an advertorial from the Church of Scientology.

Mistakes like these make consumers feel annoyed, deceived and unfavorable toward brands. This is especially true for millennials, and impactful advertisers and publishers are adapting their strategies in an effort to achieve more than simply the default “not annoying.”

Today, they are striving to deliver ads that are relevant, engaging and even interactive. In a world where advertisers hunger for millennial eyeballs and dollars, relevant and engaging means delivering ads that are “authentic.”

Snapchat realized that if ads are not authentic and sharable, they are unsuccessful, and it is ushering in a new era of advertising through a wealth of new ad formats that blur the lines between advertising and content.

In what some are calling a pre-initial public offering push, Snapchat has unveiled sponsored creation tools for brands to create ads with facial-recognition selfie lenses and geofilters. It is also offering the services of its creative partners to help brands build snap ads, including new formats like “expandable” snap ads.

The Snapchat advertising revolution underscores that advertising is becoming content and brands are creating content in the hope that it will get shared, maybe even go viral, which in turn makes the brand relevant by association.

Authenticity: Advertising’s secret sauce (and Achilles’ heel)

No segment of the population values authenticity more than millennials. This presents a challenge to brands because millennials perceive ads as unauthentic.

Forbes conducted a study with Elite Daily, which revealed that just 1 percent of millennials say a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. They believe that advertising is all spin, so they ignore ads completely.

Some brands try to fabricate authenticity by paying “influencers” to feature their products in ways that seem natural.

Chiara Ferragni, the woman behind wildly popular fashion blog The Blonde Salad, formed partnerships with Burberry and Dior.

Famed food blogger Joy Wilson (a.k.a. Joy the Baker) published a post on how to make buttermilk biscuits in conjunction with Land O Lakes European Style Super Premium Butter, using the product in her recipe.

While this strategy may seem to work out well for brands and influencers, many consumers see through it. They are the latest incarnation of celebrity endorsements, and their luster is beginning to fade. In fact, according to a recent survey by Collective Bias, 70 percent of 18- through-34-year-olds prefer peer endorsements over celebrity endorsement, the former of which is perceived as true and valid versus fake and manufactured. It is clear that Joy the Baker is being paid to feature Land O Lakes, which makes the reader doubt whether the butter, is in fact, “fantastic.”

Fabricating authenticity?

Advertisers face a Catch-22: Authenticity is clearly driving millennials’ purchases and loyalty to brands, but it’s not exactly something that can be manufactured. When brands try, there’s a high chance that it will come off forced and inauthentic, which drives millennials away for good.

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