Snapchat is settling into ad tech, and so are its partners.
Video production and editing startup VidMob, one of five Creative API partners that Snapchat announced in late January, launched a self-serve platform on Thursday that lets advertisers and publishers create, manage and buy Snap Ads within a single interface.
The platform combines Snapchat’s recently released Ads API and Creative API and was in beta for the last three weeks. It is basically the Snapchat version of Facebook’s Ads Manager or Google’s AdWords, but for video, said Alex Collmer, VidMob’s CEO and founder.
Users can upload their existing video footage to the platform, and within a few hours, someone in VidMob’s community of roughly 5,000 video editors will recut or reedit it so that it’s Snapchat-compatible.
Once the video’s ready, a brand can push the revamped media to Snapchat and layer on targeting parameters, such as demo, age, interests and geo.
VidMob declined to share how much it will be paid by Snapchat when advertisers create and traffic ads through its SaaS platform.
Creating video assets is always more complicated and expensive than text- or image-based ads, but on Snapchat, there’s the added complications of vertical video and time constraints, Collmer said.
Although advertisers and publishers are starting to get hip to full-screen vertical video, most of their assets are still horizontally oriented and longer than the 10 seconds allotted for Snap Ads.
“No matter how big or small the company is, this is something everyone seems to be struggling with,” Collmer said, and not just on Snapchat. “It can literally take just a few seconds to create a text-based ad on Facebook’s or Google’s self-serve platform – that’s why Facebook was able to say on its most recent earnings call that they have over 4 million advertisers – but it’s far more difficult to do that for video.”
Snapchat is aware of that challenge. Parent company Snap Inc. noted in its S-1 earlier this month that “many of our advertisers only recently started with us and spend a relatively small portion of their overall advertising budget with us.”
But easier self-serve access could nudge budgets away from the experimental and open up the platform to smaller players like publisher FamilyFun, for example.
Although video is a huge driver of engagement for FamilyFun – the Meredith-owned magazine sees 252% more engagement overall on video than its other posts – bandwidth and budget are an issue.
FamilyFun has been using VidMob for roughly the last year to create video for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Although the pub isn’t on Snapchat yet, Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Ann Shaw is very interested in running experiments through the self-serve platform.
“We can’t feed the beast enough, so any tool that makes it easier to produce those videos and get them to the people we need to reach is amazing for us,” Shaw said.
The Hearst Newspapers division of Hearst Communications, which owns the San Francisco Chronicle, Times Union and Houston Chronicle, among other papers, is also trying to figure out its Snapchat strategy.
Advertisers are keenly interested, said Karen Brophy, SVP of strategy and operations at Hearst. The challenge for Hearst Newspapers is creating an ad package that makes sense for local advertisers, like a winery in California or a furniture store in Texas.
The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, gets a lot of national traffic, which is great, Brophy said, but that doesn’t necessarily help drive foot traffic to a wine tasting in San Jose.
That’s why the targeting element of the self-serve Snapchat platform is appealing. Advertisers think it’s cool to see Snapchat as part of an ads package, Brophy said, and the geo targeting could help them reach their foot-traffic goals.
“We can roll up Snap Ads into an event sponsorship for our advertisers, and then it would be easy for us to service them ourselves on the platform,” said Brophy, who noted that Hearst Newspapers plans to soon start piloting VidMob’s self-serve platform for Snapchat.
For the moment, VidMob has the only combined creative/ads SaaS portal to purchase and manage Snapchat media, but it has no exclusive contract with Snapchat. And now that Snapchat has released multiple APIs (Ads, Custom Audience Match and Creative), it’s likely that other partners will start rolling up their sleeves and creating their own API cocktails.
There’s also no telling if Snapchat will create its own ads manager down the line, rendering its partners’ efforts redundant.
Collmer acknowledged that marketing partners can lead a precarious existence and are often at the mercy of the larger platforms they serve. That’s why you’ve got to be like a shark: Keep swimming or die.
“You have to approach it with the full understanding that these companies are enormously capable in all regards and, ultimately, they’ll do what’s in their own best interests,” he said. “We know we have to build and always offer incredible services, and if we ever fall flat on that, I assume they’ll go elsewhere.”