Snapchat made a reluctant debut into paid advertising this week with a 20-second trailer for the Universal Pictures film Ouija, leaving one to wonder if its throwback, non-data-driven ad strategy will last as long.
As marketers struggle to keep up with increasingly sophisticated methods of delivering relevant messages to key consumer segments, the social media network that lets users place a time limit on posts has time-travelled backwards with its first foray into monetization. “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,” read a blog posted on Snapchat’s website last week.
“Bigger brands want to play in a space that appeals to a younger demographic, but without targeting, it’s pointless. They’re throwing their money away,” says Dayna Moon, senior director of social at 3Q Digital. “Without targeting there’s no way to ensure that the brand’s message is hitting the right person at the right time.”
Despite posting little in the way of revenue, Snapchat has been a darling of tech investors. In the past year Russian investment firm DST Global purchased a stake in Snapchat based on a company valuation of $7 billion. That was followed in August by an investment based on a $10 billion valuation from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, an early investor in both Google and Amazon.
Snapchat’s managers, who run the show from a renovated beach house in Venice, CA, (above), are notoriously blasé about crafting a business plan. Following the Kleiner investment, a Snapchat spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that “The valuation of our business and our capital requirements are the least exciting aspects of supporting the Snapchat community.”
They were equally cavalier in explaining the appearance of ads to Snapchat users. “An advertisement will appear in your Recent Updates from time to time, and you can choose if you want to watch it,” said the introductory blog. “No biggie.”
That’s likely to be the reaction of brands and agencies to the prospect of campaigning on Snapchat. “If they want to be a player and command some of the six- and seven-figure budgets, they’re going to have to step up their game,” Moon says. “[Social networks] have to focus on targeting that creates a balance between what advertisers want and what followers want to interact with. Facebook is doing that pretty well.”
With its WhatsApp texting service, Facebook may soon be part of Snapchat’s competitive conversation, as may Google with its Messenger app, said to be set for a 2015 rollout.