Will Snapchat’s Lack of Targeting in First Ad Do More Harm Than Good?

After months of speculation, Snapchat officially entered the advertising world on Saturday with its first sponsored Snap. But some industry participants say the decision not to target the ads will prevent the campaigns from succeeding. 

The ephemeral messaging app’s first sponsored post belonged to Universal Pictures and featured a 20-second trailer for the upcoming horror movie Ouija that Snapchatters found in their Recent Updates section. As is the case with users’ “Stories,” the trailer disappeared from the Recent Updates feed after being viewed or within 24 hours, depending on whether users chose to watch.

Snapchat’s fast growth and popularity with Millennials gave the app a $10 billion valuation over the summer. Now that the app has decided to monetize – ahead of schedule, as the platform’s paid posts were rumored to debut in November – it’s keeping its advertising contained to Recent Updates and promising not to put ads in Snaps or Chats.

According to Snapchat’s blog, “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.”

But some aren’t so sure this strategy will work. The lack of targeting is a recipe for disaster, says Dayna Moon, senior director of social at Bay Area agency 3Q Digital.

“A platform considering [taking] the plunge into the monetization ocean with ads that would not be [targeted] is a ticking time bomb,” Moon says. “Not only does the first impression count, but each and every interaction with a brand attributes to its overall value, both online and through more traditional channels. Without targeting, there’s no way to ensure that the brand’s message is hitting the right person at the right time.”

Maggie Gross, senior planner at Havas Worldwide New York, adds that unlike Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat can’t integrate on a feed, leverage previous actions, or even play ads automatically.

“On Snapchat, people have to want to see your ad before they even open it,” Gross says. “If Snapchat were a person, I’d think they were being really cool about this whole ads thing. But as a marketer, this would be a tough sell for my clients.”


Related reading