Snapchat’s API Makes It Easier For Advertisers To Test, And Now They Need To See Results

snapchatAPIAgency buyers believe Snapchat’s partner program, which allows third parties to buy inventory, will help the messaging service migrate from a bespoke buy to a more central part of a media plan.

“If you look at the scale and daily time spent, especially among millennials, you have to consider Snapchat a core reach vehicle,” said Mike McLaughlin, managing director for digital at Mindshare North America. Sixty percent of Snapchat’s daily users are millennials who use the platform for an average of 25-30 minutes per day, according to Snapchat data.

The partner program lets select ad tech vendors place snap ads – native, full-screen video units previously called 3V ads. Partner agencies develop ads, which must be approved by Snapchat.

Media buyers agree that if Snapchat continues in its current direction, it’s on a path to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook as an ad platform.

“Anyone who ignores Snapchat and doesn’t think it’s going to be significant to advertisers given its apparent trajectory has made a foolhardy conclusion,” said GroupM chief digital officer Rob Norman.

But the nascent platform still has some work to do on targeting and measurement before becoming an integral part of the media plan. 

What’s automated?

Snapchat’s partners are under strict orders to keep quiet about the extent of the API’s data, targeting and automation capabilities, though an Adweek article indicated that much of the automation revolves around the invoicing process. Beyond that, media buyers don’t yet know what other aspects of the buying process will be automated.

Snapchat declined to comment on the topic.

Snapchat’s control over what creative gets onto its platform could inhibit features like real-time bidding, for instance. Since advertisers will have to develop creative specifically for the platform, Snapchat won’t be as easy to buy programmatically as other media, said Katie Ashafa, VP director of platform media at Trilia Media, Hill Holliday’s media-buying arm.

“I expect it to evolve how Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest have: starting with pretty limited targeting capabilities that become more robust, including implementing their own first-party data,” said James Douglas, executive director of social media at Society, IPG Mediabrands’ social media and content agency.

George Manas, president of digital agency Resolution Media, also envisions Snapchat’s ad capabilities evolving similar to that of Google, Facebook and Pinterest.

“It’s built off the heritage of Google AdWords,” he said. “We’ve seen that evolution with Facebook building up their own native ad stack, essentially bringing together demand and supply. We’ve seen it with Pinterest and their move toward a biddable model.”

Manas compared Snapchat’s partner program to when Pinterest launched an ads API for select partners last year.

Measurement Is Better, But Targeting Needs Work

Buyers are still waiting for more clarity on Snapchat’s targeting and measurement capabilities before adopting it widely across media plans.

“The dirty secret about Snapchat is that its measurement capabilities are extraordinarily poor,” Douglas said. “For us to really value the traffic, eyeballs and individuals we want to market on Snapchat, we need the ability to measure and compare to alternative platforms.”

For him, Snapchat will need to be measureable against competitive platforms to prove its place. Ashafa, on the other hand, seeks more granular reporting based on user preferences and affinities on par with that of Facebook and Instagram.

Snapchat has taken efforts to address these concerns. It most recently partnered with DoubleClick and Moat, and also works with Nielsen, Datalogix, Innovid, Sizmek and Millward Brown to measure views and reach. According to Douglas, that helps.

“Knowing they work with Moat, Nielsen and DoubleClick is so critical for our advertisers,” Ashafa agreed. “Being able to close the loop on post-click activities will be really helpful for them.”

“Snapchat is on the right path in partnering with data match providers to build more closed-loop measurement opportunities,” Manas said. And the new API will organically build out Snapchat’s measurement capabilities by bringing in additional third parties.

Targeting, however, might be more difficult.

Because Snapchat has logged-in users, they’re well-positioned for one-to-one matching and targeting a la Facebook, Twitter and Google. But Snapchat has shared little about its present and future targeting capabilities, leaving media buyers to speculate.

“Gender, location and content are the basics,” Ashafa said. “They could make strides in sophisticated behavioral targeting by looking at what users are posting.”

“Right now their targeting is still very basic,” Manas said. “There’s a tremendous opportunity for them to build a targeting ecosystem similar to Facebook: moving beyond basic demographics to more implicit and explicit behavior target filters.”

Despite unknowns, because it’s now easier to buy on Snapchat advertisers will be more likely to test the platform.

“It will go from a barrier to testing to suddenly there is no more barrier, let’s test it out,” Douglas said. “Then it becomes a challenge to prove value.”

But even as Snapchat introduces new ad products and opportunities, it will have to tread lightly and introduce frequency controls to avoid too heavily disrupting the user experience.

“Snapchat’s success to date is because of limited ads,” Ashafa said. “Making sure that impact is still there with an influx of new advertisers, and making sure were not hitting consumers too many times, is important.”

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  1. Mark McLaughlin

    What was the “punishment” for marketers who took their time with Google paid search and Facebook ads? If a big marketer supported by a top flight media agency decides the now is the time to start using FB and Google aggressively, what exactly is the barrier to entry? And, on the other hand, how many late adopters of Twitter are better off for the waiting? I ask this question because this statement: “Anyone who ignores Snapchat and doesn’t think it’s going to be significant to advertisers given its apparent trajectory has made a foolhardy conclusion” seems to imply that there is a tangible penalty for being a late adopter. What is that penalty?