Snapchat, the hugely popular (one billion users and counting) photo message app has decided it is time to start justifying its 10 billion dollar valuation and run adverts, starting with an ad for new horror film, Ouija. They have admitted that they ‘need to make money’ and announced it via a blog post, the highlight of which is this nugget:


The best advertisements tell you more about stuff that actually interests you. Some companies spend a lot of time and collect a lot of data about you to figure that out. The product we’re releasing today is a lot simpler. 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.


Before going on to say they wouldn’t put ads in personal communications because that would be ‘totally rude’.


Whilst the honesty on earning an income is refreshing (all media space owners need money, even big cuddly social media ones), we don’t buy the innocence about data for one second. They say they won’t be collecting data to figure out the demographic of individual users, which is a little insincere, when, in truth they have captured a demographic: millennials, whom they know all about. No brand would sign up to advertise with them otherwise.


This is in contrast to Facebook, who have a vast user base made up of hugely disparate demographics and who do have to ‘spend a lot of time and collect a lot of data’ figuring them out.


The big questions are: how will our industry and that demographic respond?


The format encourages a very soft approach. If you don’t like an ad, not only will you not have to click it but it will, like all Snapchats, eventually disappear. The users that open a Snapad, unlike many digital advert consumers, do so ready to be engaged having given their express permission to be approached by the advertiser. This should result in fewer users seeing each advert but a far higher level of engagement in those that do. Further, advertisers will have to be creative to even get their ad seen and this creativity will help keep the users on side too.


The format is loved by users because of its transience. They trust the format as a result and this (relatively) non-intrusive ad format shouldn’t mess with that relationship in the same way it has with other social networks.


This is exciting news, a step in the direction of reconciling the traditional creative advertising industry with an online audience that has become increasingly disengaged with adverts.