Snapchat debuted its first ads over the weekend and it received a positive response from its users for making the ads unintrusive and optional to view. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re great for advertisers.
What makes social media advertising so valuable is the access to vast amounts of consumer data that can be used for very specific audience targeting. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all offer huge audiences, but it’s really the ability to target their users by age, sex, location and their interests that makes advertising on those platforms so effective.
Snapchat on the other hand, doesn’t offer targeting, and it explained why in a blog post last Friday:
We want to see if we can deliver an experience that’s fun and informative, the way ads used to be, before they got creepy and targeted. It’s nice when all of the brilliant creative minds out there get our attention with terrific content.
In a world where data is everything, Snapchat is either refreshingly bold or painfully naive for criticizing ads for being “creepy and targeted.”
While it’s safe to assume most of Snapchat’s users skew young, beyond that there’s very little demographic or location information that the app can offer its advertisers. Snapchat may have the numbers and the attention of millennials, but it’s not quite the most compelling ad product in this digital age.
“As a marketer buying on behalf of brands, I am hesitant to recommend any platform that doesn’t see targeting as an integral part of their model,” says Dayna Moon, senior director of social at digital agency 3Q Digital. “A platform considering taking the plunge into the monetization ocean with ads ‘that would not be targeted’ is a ticking time bomb.”
Moon says brands these days are expecting far more from their social media spending and can’t afford to do the same blanket campaign spends on digital that they would on TV or print.
“Not only does the first impression count, but each and every interaction with a brand attributes to its overall value both online and through more traditional channels,” says Moon. “Without targeting, there’s no way to ensure that the brand’s message is hitting the right person at the right time.”
For now, Snapchat has chosen to err on the side of its users rather than advertisers, which could still prove to be a successful strategy, at least in the short term. As long as its audience continues to grow exponentially, Snapchat could still charge high ad rates purely on the basis of its overall numbers. But eventually, the advertisers will start asking for more, and it’ll be interesting to see how committed Snapchat remains in the face of those demands.