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Snapchat’s ‘Sponsored Lenses’ And The Power Of User Generated Product Placement

Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

Snapchat will launch a new advertising format which allows users to include popular branded content as a part of their message or selfie. Snapchat will help design stickers for brands and make them available to users. It will reportedly charge up to 750,000 USD to reach its entire user base on popular days like Halloween or Black Friday. Here is our take on the real values of this format and how it makes many current mobile ad formats look old-fashioned in comparison.

Snapchat’s Sponsored Lenses Are Native Ads 2.0

Sponsored lenses address the problem of ad intrusion. They eradicate the separation between ads and content. Instead, the ad is seamlessly integrated into it. This mitigates the annoyance of having to first view an ad before the content users requested in the first place. Furthermore, this type of integration is likely to remain unaffected by the adblocking boom. Although, native app adblockers such as Been Choice or network-wide ad blocking might affect app publishers in the near future, Snapchat could bypass their potential negative impact. That’s because sponsored lenses will pass as in-app features, rather than as an advert. This is similar to how filters on Instagram are classified: as an on-demand (i.e. non-intrusive) editing feature.

The power of User Generated Product Placement

Snapchat sponsored lenses establish the first effective user generated product placement platform. The fact that much of the product placement is going to be curated by users is a bold innovative move that carries a number of implications.

Firstly, the message will come from a friend, not a brand. Word of mouth remains the most powerful form of marketing and Snapchat’s sponsored lenses bring mobile advertising capabilities a lot closer to commercially realizing it.

Secondly, because the message is from a friend, the product placement is likely to be highly contextualized. In other words, there will be a reason for a user deciding to include a certain branded character/template to the message. Whatever it is, it will be a lot more personal than what any ad campaign team could realistically deliver on such a granular user level.

Thirdly, while the brand is being seen, it bears much less accountability for potentially ‘weak content’. Because users are the main message curators, they also take the fame and shame for much of the message. Everyone will know that a particular Marvel character might be available to use, but the social contest will be in who uses it in a most engaging/popular way. In other words, if the message does not land well with the receiver, it’ll no longer be the ‘Lame Brand’ but ‘Lame Frank’ who sent the message. All that brands have to do in this case is design visually popular and appealing selfie templates for users to engage with.

The branded selfie receiver is not the only user interacting with the brand here. In fact those who decide to send the branded templates are showing a significant amount of trust in the brand, as they are willing to put their neck on the social media line alongside the branded content. Snapchat can help brands identify users with such a degree of loyalty. Brands may then wish to reward or target those as a separate segment.

Finally, Snapchat is the only digital environment in which marketers have potentially got 10 seconds of consumer’s undivided attention (due to limited replay options). Focused attention in the digital world is a godsend to advertisers, especially if the message distributors are consumers themselves. If branded selfies take off with the users, Snapchat might have just brought about a mini revolution in the mobile advertising world.

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