Today’s column is written by Frank Sinton, founder and CEO at Beachfront Media.
Snapchat, the mobile video, photo and chat app beloved by millennials, is having what some are calling its “Facebook moment” by attracting broad attention from mainstream audiences and media as its user base tops 100 million.
That growth prompted The Wall Street Journal to advise business people to explore the app’s potential implications for their companies.
I agree with the Journal’s assessment, but what has me really excited is that Snapchat looks like it’s also having another kind of Facebook moment: It’s finally embracing marketers and taking important steps to become a sustainable media property with a real advertising platform.
I’ll call this the ad tech moment for Snapchat, a moment that other major social media platforms have all had, each in their own time, over the past few years. Finally, Snapchat is joining the Big App Club in this key area, and it couldn’t be better news for the advertising business.
To begin with, Snapchat is reportedly building an application programming interface (API) that will provide the software “hooks” that will allow at least some ad-tech companies to automate the targeting and delivery of ads to the right Snapchat users.
I had hoped this would be a relatively wide-open API that addressed programmatic buying, a neglected market segment that YouTube no longer fully accommodates. Unfortunately, the latest reports suggest that won’t be the case. Nonetheless, this initiative still provides hope for a bigger digital video ad market with real potential for brands, publishers and Snapchat itself.
Snapchat isn’t commenting, but its initiatives also reportedly include improved ad targeting for people watching the media companies in its Discover section and tracking of visitor browsing and searches beyond the app. It’s also said to have created a way for brands to check on how many people have actually watched their ads.
More recently, reports have surfaced that the company is testing longer-form sponsored videos on the channels of a few of its Discovery publishing partners, including spots that click through to full-length movie trailers from three different movie studios.
Rumors are even taking flight that the company may buy an ad-tech startup to bolster its efforts. Re/Code named two companies as among those that Snapchat has talked with, though no one’s commenting.
Importantly, Snapchat is also hiring executives to head sales and measurement, key areas of focus for a company that wants to build out its ad side and its relationships with brands and publishers.
We’re already seeing some interesting possibilities for Snapchat ad content. During the recent College Football Playoffs championship game, for instance, Snapchat was compiling one of its event-driven “stories,” comprising segments from lots of users. Every three or four segments would see the insertion of a brief video ad.
Given how intently people are watching their Snapchat feeds, this approach will likely become a powerful way to reach a big audience.
Because Snapchat has been such a closed world, with a dearth of tracking, delivery and analytics tools for outsiders, this is all welcome news – even if it’s only a step in the right direction, rather than a fully realized destination that gives marketers better ways to reach its massive audience and know what they’re getting for their investments.
But if Snapchat can actually get all this technology in place, arguably, it will have leapfrogged Facebook in terms of its ability to monetize video advertising, though Facebook has had plenty of success of its own.
Should Snapchat actually catch up, this may really be its ad-tech Facebook moment.