Commentary

I Have Seen The Future, And It's Mobile And Fleeting

At a recent family gathering, I noticed two unmistakable trends.

The family spent the entire evening playing with their smartphones. This is the new alternative to actually having a real conversation. And secondly, I noted that my nieces and parents now communicate solely with Snapchat — not Facebook, not Twitter and certainly not email.

It should hardly have been a surprise, as the latest comScore report notes that 97% of 18-34 Millennials are mobile users, 20% don’t use desktop at all, and a majority of college-age adults use Snapchat every month. As someone who has a stake in prognosticating the future, it’s becoming clearer than ever that mostly mobile applications like Snapchat are the future of programmatic advertising.

There are now 8-billion video views every day on Snapchat, with promotional content created by CNN, Food Network, Vice and Warner Music, among many others, all with a great deal of interest in reaching Millennials. Snapchat argues that its users don’t spend a lot of time watching CNN, and one has to imagine that’s now true.

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One could argue that the young social media audience is fickle, moving on from Facebook as quickly as they embraced it, but Facebook is still the largest social-media application by far, with Snapchat and others growing quickly. Snapchat is now valued at $16 billion, and some are estimating about $350 million in revenue this year, more than six times what it estimated in 2015.

Brands like Snapchat have helped spawn entities like Instafluence by Disney’s Maker Studios, which specializes in using social-media celebrities in social-media ads for clients like VH-1, Paramount and Wooga.

In place of the usual company talking head, we asked an actual 19-year-old named Delia to tell us about Snapchat and what she likes about it.

“I like Snapchat for its convenience in getting a message to a large group of my friends at once," she opines. "I can take a picture, conveniently pick and choose who I want to see it, and send it out in a matter of minutes. The 'story' feature lets me stay updated on my friends' lives in a very informal way, seeing quick snapshots of what they've been up to in the last 24 hours. I can choose to view them or not, on my own time. 

“I think the fleeting nature of Snapchats is also appealing, in the fact they normally disappear after a few seconds. It encourages people to let loose and not take their photos too seriously because they won't be around for too long. It's a fun, convenient app to stay in contact with friends, and is honestly sometimes just a way for me to kill time if I'm bored.”

Snapchat has a just-folks approach to advertising, at least as far as what its posts on company blogs. Back in 2014, when it introduced advertising in users’ Recent Updates, they put it this way:

“An advertisement will appear in your Recent Updates from time to time, and you can choose if you want to watch it. No biggie. It goes away after you view it or within 24 hours, just like Stories. We won’t put advertisements in your personal communication — things like Snaps or Chats. That would be totally rude. We want to see if we can deliver an experience that’s fun and informative, the way ads used to be, before they got creepy and targeted. It’s nice when all of the brilliant creative minds out there get our attention with terrific content. Understandably, a lot of folks want to know why we’re introducing advertisements to our service. The answer is probably unsurprising — we need to make money.”

That sounds real folksy and non-threatening, and we suppose it’s good enough for big brands like McDonald’s and Taco Bell, which use non-traditional branded images in the Snapchat mode to push their products. Like it or not, this seems to be the future of programmatic advertising.

This article was originally published in the Programmatic Insider on April 6, 2016.

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