Less than a week after a drab earnings report, Snapchat is polishing its ad product portfolio and making a shiny new addition.
Snapchat is now selling Sponsored Lenses that can be targeted to specific audiences with a guaranteed number of impressions and is adding the non-selfie World Lens variety to its ad portfolio so that brands can augment people’s surroundings. Additionally, the company is making it easier for brands to customize broadly targeted Sponsored Geofilter campaigns to specific locations.
The enhancements to Snapchat’s two more premium, and therefore pricier, ad formats could help to boost its ad revenue and avoid a second straight quarter of sequential revenue decline. Executives at parent company Snap Inc. didn’t break out format-specific ad sales during the company’s Q1 2017 earnings call last week, so it’s hard to say whether dampened interest in Snapchat’s Sponsored Creative Tools — its umbrella name for Sponsored Lenses and Sponsored Geofilters — was what deflated its business. But Snap CFO Drew Vollero did cite a lack of major events, like the Olympics and the NFL and college football seasons, as contributing factors, and major events offer the main occasions for brands to run a campaign using a Sponsored Lens or Geofilter.
The enhancements also keep Snapchat ahead of Facebook, a month after the latter company debuted a platform for outside developers and brands to create Facebook’s versions of Snapchat’s lenses and filters. Facebook hasn’t yet turned Camera Effects into an ad product, though that’s likely in the offing. And even if that’s not already in the works, history suggests Facebook execs may see today’s news and say, “Yeah, good idea. Let’s do that, too.”
Since the new Sponsored World Lenses can only be bought when bundled with a standard Sponsored Lens campaign, let’s talk about the changes to Sponsored Lenses first. Previously, advertisers couldn’t really target their Sponsored Lens campaigns, unless you count aiming an ad at an entire country as targeting. But now, advertisers can pinpoint their Sponsored Lenses to particular groups of people, though for now only if those groups of people are in the US.
Sponsored Lens campaigns can be targeted based on people’s age, gender and which of the 60-plus Snap Lifestyle Categories they’re grouped in based on the Discover channels and Stories they view, such as “reality TV,” “hip trends,” “comedy,” “sports” and “green living.” And to make the buy more worth advertisers’ while, brands can now purchase Sponsored Lens campaigns on a guaranteed basis. That is, Snapchat will now ensure that a certain number of people at least play with a brand’s Lens, such as by applying it to their face when just messing around with friends but not actually using it in a photo or video sent in a private message or posted to their Story.
MTV and Red Bull have already tried out these audience-targeted Sponsored Lenses, and L’Oréal Paris is slated to do so soon.
If a marketer is only mildly interested in affixing its brand to someone’s face, they may be more interested in augmenting the non-face aspects of people’s realities. Brands can now buy World Lenses as an add-on to a standard, selfie-centric Sponsored Lens campaign, though I’m waiting to hear back from a Snap spokesperson on whether Sponsored World Lenses can be targeted to a specific audience. If so, that would only work for US-targeted campaigns, whereas nationally targeted Sponsored World Lenses are available in every country where standard Sponsored Lenses are available.
Brands can pick from four different options of Sponsored World Lenses. Two of the options are relatively static. The first affixes a 2D or 3D object, like a character or product, to the frame when a person is using their rear-facing camera, and the second creates an environmental effect by adding animations to the surroundings, like floating lights. The other two options allow people to interact with the lens. One triggers an animation when a person looks at or taps an augmented-reality object added to the frame, and the other can be used to turn the lens into a game and the camera into a joystick, such as by having people point their phone’s camera to find objects added to their surroundings.
Warner Bros. debuted the first Sponsored World Lens campaign on Monday to promote its upcoming film, “Everything, Everything.” Dunkin’ Donuts, Glidden Paint and Netflix will be rolling out their own examples sometime soon.
Finally, Sponsored Lenses aren’t the only one of Snapchat’s Sponsored Creative Tools that’s getting more granular. Brands buying Sponsored Geofilters to run nationally across the country or around a chain of brick-and-mortar locations can now tailor the illustrated overlay to individual locations through a feature called Smart Geofilters. For example, an airline marketer can feature a Sponsored Geofilter at every airport in the country and have that filter incorporate each airport’s name rather than a generic message. In addition to airport names, advertisers can customize their Sponsored Geofilters based on a high school’s or college’s name; the name of a state, city or neighborhood; or by ZIP code.
I’m waiting to hear back on whether Smart Geofilters can be used for chain-targeted Sponsored Geofilters bought through Snapchat’s advertising API; that won’t be the case for nationally targeted Sponsored Geofilters because those types of Geofilters cannot be bought through the API.