Can Kik Beat Snapchat With New Targeting Capabilities for Brands?

Pick a country, gender and device

A hot messaging app is starting to get more targeted with its fledgling ad business. Kik said today that it is giving brands the ability to deliver promoted messages based on gender, country and device—Apple or Android.

These are the first steps to building a more dynamic ad product in the messaging world, which has grown explosively with users. Kik is a popular but still underestimated messaging app that works like a hub of contacts and content on mobile devices.

Kik has registered more than 200 million downloads, and is consistently near the top of app ranking charts, just below a top echelon that includes Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat. Kik is operating in a young space, with millions of teenagers on the app because it doesn't require a phone number to join.

It competes against Snapchat for the attention of the youth and is trying to keep up with that app's innovations and ad ambitions. One area it sees an advantage is in targeting, because Snapchat is still an uncertain proposition when it comes to defining and hitting an intended audience.

Kik first introduced Promoted Chats last year, which lets brands build a following in the app that they could then message. It later introduced keyword capabilities that helped brands communicate with fans through automated responses based on the keywords.

In unveiling its new targeting capabilities, Kik said that more than 10 million users had opted in to chatting with brands since Promoted Chats launched in August. There are now 60 brands using the feature, including Funny or Die, Seventeen Magazine, Skullcandy and Vans.

Funny or Die, with more than 1 million followers on Kik, exemplifies the kind of scale a brand could achieve. With about 500,000 followers, Skullcandy, the headphone maker, has more fans on Kik than Twitter, where it has about 112,000 followers.

Now, Seventeen is using targeted Promoted Chats to reach women on the app, Kik said.

The company also revealed new reporting capabilities to measure the effectiveness of Promoted Chat campaigns after they run.

Also this week, Kik launched its first native video player that allows for filming and sharing footage right in the app. Video is a key area in messaging, and Kik bought an app called Relay last year. Relay was a GIF-creation app, and showed Kik's ambitions in animated images and video, which are key formats for brands and advertisers looking to share content.