By Adding Ad Performance Data, Snapchat Wants You To Win

March 1, 2016

Snapchat’s original headquarters (in Venice, Calif.) is more Big Lebowski than Big Data.

“I am not spending a dime against Snapchat if they can’t tell me what I’m getting in return.” 

That’s not something you would expect to hear from the lips of a media manager tasked with reaching a high school-aged target consumer, but I heard it with my own two ears about a month ago while in a planning meeting.

In fact, I heard it just a few weeks after hip-hop artist person DJ Khaled posted a Snapchat Story in which he was lost in the night in Miami’s Biscayne Bay on his jet ski. The Snapchat Story generated coverage from the likes of BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Vice, MTV and many other major outlets. It trended on Twitter and Facebook. The silly little platform with the ephemeral video messages penetrated all of mass media within 24 hours, proving it was anything but novelty. It was a tipping point.

The virality of DJ Khaled’s jet ski misadventure served as further proof Snapchat is the most consistently engaging social platform for young people right now. Despite its success and throngs of brands eager to invest, Snapchat has been incredibly poor at providing performance data for its ad campaigns, even in the face of constant haranguing from advertisers. Worse yet, it seems to have been for lack of effort. Until very recently, Snapchat prided itself on running a lean and mean operation — not the palatial corporate campus you see from Facebook and Twitter. This became a go-to excuse whenever the company was pressed on its lack of reporting capabilities.

Apparently the same complaint I heard a few months back echoed loudly enough to force Snapchat to finally give in. Late last week, it announced it was greatly expanding ad performance data with a new Nielsen partnership, as well as adding qualitative data (affinity, intent to purchase, etc.) through Millward Brown Digital.

Media buyers aren’t the only winners in a world where Snapchat offers robust and readily available performance analytics. Reporting capabilities allow agencies (like Fast Horse) to prove ROI — a key piece to making the case for Snapchat as a priority storytelling platform. And there is at least one area where no other platform can compete: real-time video.

Whenever we recommend an integrated consumer experience or activation, we recommend our client use it as an opportunity for social media content. However, we consistently bump up against the question of how do we make it interesting to someone who isn’t there? Often times, the answer is to offer the content in real-time, because the precious hours and days it takes to produce and edit a more polished video allows the experience to slip further into the rear view. Immediacy can be everything.

Although Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offer real-time solutions, users more often go to these channels with the expectation they can check in and check out. They want passive content they can view on their own time. Snapchat, on the other hand, allows brands to aggregate a real-time experience down to its best moments, giving users 24 hours to view highlights as many times as they like. If I could tell you why it works — and why it works so much better than any other platform — I would be a retired 31-year-old with a Mickelson-like short game, I would travel exclusively via hoverboard and I would own a sneaker collection that rivals DJ Khaled’s.