First McDonald's, Now, Taco Bell: The Snapchat Ads That Passed Me By

While all of you were having too much fun stealing your kids’ Easter candy, I spent the Easter weekend lamenting the fact that I missed another Snapchat ad -- not for McDonald’s, like last time-- but for Taco Bell.

As it was with McDonald’s, I found out about the ad only after it had passed its sell-by date, which, this being Snapchat, is usually the exact same day as the date that it was “prepared.” You see, in conjunction with the MTV Movie Awards, way, way back on April 13, Taco Bell created a short movie -- perhaps the first branded one on the platform -- about its new Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos, using the Snapchat Stories feature.

For the uninitiated, here’s the best part: a Snapchat Story is like the “War and Peace” of Snapchat, because it lives for 24 hours (!!!), and this particular one was over four minutes long. Nonetheless, despite the fact this wasn’t your usual 10-second long Snap, I still didn’t hear about it until it was too late.

Obviously, this has led to an existential crisis. Will I go through the rest of my life as the Social Media Insider searching for Snapchat ads that pass me by before I can see them? What then? Will I become the Social Media Outsider?

I’d been led to believe that the highest achievement an advertiser could dream of is going viral, and this Taco Bell film isn’t that. Isn’t the whole point of marketing to make ads that live in something akin to perpetuity, as they get shared, reshared, memed and re-memed on every platform available  -- including some most of us don’t even know about yet?  

But here’s the thing. Even as I’ve had loads of fun making jokes at Snapchat’s expense, more advertisers are experimenting with it: the list includes not only McDonald’s and Taco Bell, but Evian, Mercedes-Benz, Juicy Couture. There’s something to be said, it turns out, for a platform that is counterintuitive to  advertising as it’s currently practiced -- from its ephemeral nature to its conspicuous lack of concrete data.

Of course, on the one hand, experimenting with Snapchat is like experimenting with any other new social platform, in that it’s completely free of any media cost. On the other hand, with Taco Bell, real money was spent making this film, assuming it costs something to use Evolution Bureau and Deutsch to shoot all over L.A. over a 24-hour time period. (It does.) Oh, and the film’s conclusion ended on the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards. That doesn’t come free, either.

Taco Bell social media lead Nick Tran explained to Advertising Age last week that the brand’s interest in Snapchat is very straightforward: “We think that our fans are asking for more content on Snapchat and we’re going to provide that,” he said.

However, you have to wonder if there’s something more to it. It’s truer than ever that we live in an age of advertising overabundance. Maybe what Snapchat offers advertisers is a play on scarcity, since anyone who creates for it makes something that lasts about as long as your average taco. Snapchat advertising -- better get it while it’s hot!

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