Snapchat Accepts Ads -- And Social Media Insider Eats Humble Pie

My name is Cathy Taylor, and I was all wrong about Snapchat.

It’s one of the hardest confessions, I’ve ever had to make, but let me be honest: earlier this year, feeling overconfident, I predicted what would happen in 2014 concerning a number of social platforms. Of Snapchat, I wrote:  “ … it’s hard to see this turning into an advertising platform -- in 2014, or any other year -- both because its content almost always goes away, and because when it doesn’t, it’s not a good thing.”

Since that time -- sob -- as if to defy the mighty Social Media Insider, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Heineken and Juicy Couture have all used Snapchat to market themselves; and now, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel has gone public with the fact that the platform will soon have ads, which he discussed at yet another conference I wasn’t invited to: the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit.

How did I get it so wrong?

Essentially, by ignoring a cardinal rule of advertisers: that they will leave no social platform untrammeled, especially ones like Snapchat, which has more than doubled the minutes spent on it in the last year, to 5.5 billion of them.

Who cares if, according to Spiegel, the ads will be opt-in and untargeted? Targeting is so 2013!

Still, one has to wonder if there’s a hidden virtue in a platform that doesn’t target. The whole idea has a touch of back-to-the-future about it. No muss, no fuss -- just like in the days when the fact that major advertisers needed to buy time on popular TV shows barely warranted analysis. Just reach everyone, indiscriminately! Those were the days!

But then there’s this whole opt-in thing, and that’s where what I dreamed about above falls apart. On the one hand, some users do friend advertiser accounts -- that’s how all marketing to date on Snapchat has happened. But I’d argue that it’s one thing to follow or friend a brand, and another to willfully accept its paid advertising. If that weren’t the case, you wouldn’t see so much buzz about Ello, or WhatsApp, or any number of other young communications platforms that have yet to accept advertising -- or, in the case of the two mentioned here, have said they never want to accept any advertising, ever.

So, if anyone thinks that Snapchat ads will reach the masses, they’d also better find a whole new monetization model, in which a cut of the advertising expenditures goes straight into the pockets of users who opt in. You could call it a bribe.

Which brings me to the second reason I got my prediction so wrong. I ignored another cardinal rule: Social platforms will almost always think that advertising is the way they should make money.

What a fool am I!

4 comments about "Snapchat Accepts Ads -- And Social Media Insider Eats Humble Pie".
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  1. Matt Cooper from Addroid, October 10, 2014 at 4:18 p.m.

    I wonder what value the ads will have in the marketplace once the early adopters wash out and move their experimental budgets to the next flavor of the month. I can see maybe selling on a CPA as an un-targeted CMP might be too low. I think it's interesting that the ads are opt in so I'm guessing they'll starting requiring some type of user info to ultimately help with targeting which I don't think is a trend from last year—I know you were being facetious. Will they get enough users to opt in? Will the ad experience effect the user experience? Will advertisers ultimately feel comfortable in the long term paying to place their Brands against a boyfriends d*ck pict? Ultimately we knew the ads we're coming but they have to not only just bring in revenue, they have to justify the MASSIVE valuation the company has been given as well. Will opt in ads be enough? I just feel like there's still a lot to work out.

  2. George Parker from Parker Consultants, October 10, 2014 at 8:02 p.m.

    Catharine... Yes Snapchat is valued at TEN BILLION DOLLARS. How, why, what??? I am reminded that the "Wizened of Oz" (Rupert Murdoch) bought MySpace for $600 MILLION and everyone said he was a genius. Three years later, he sold it for $30 million. As Yogi once said... It's Dot Com Deja vue all over again!
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

  3. Tom Goodwin from Tomorrow, October 12, 2014 at 4:18 p.m.

    You are not wrong yet. They haven't "turned in into advertising platform", they've said they will run a few ads and have some brands to try it.
    Let's come back in 3 years and see how right you were.

  4. Amy Hunt from AH Media Insights & Strategy, October 13, 2014 at 1:18 p.m.

    I don't think you are 'wrong' yet either. Seems to me Snapchat has been overvalued in the marketplace. They, like some other start-up social media platforms (apps), have privacy issues that could trump the users experiences to continue to rely on this for entertainment and information. But you must applaud SnapChat for plunging into the ad world while fragmentation is difficult to wrangle.

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