It was of no surprise that the biggest announcement at the recent Facebook F8 conference was the evolution of the Messenger platform. For marketers, this means automated customer support and commerce via bots that, through a combination of algorithms and machine learning, provide users with an automated conversation-based customer-service experience. It also means that marketers will be able to message (by paying ad dollars) people who have 'opted in' to interact with their brand on Messenger. Users of WeChat in China have been experiencing something similar for a couple of years, and with a Line 'official account' brands can send content to followers on the platform.
For all these developments, however, Messenger isn't providing upper-funnel brand solutions. That's what the Facebook news feed is for. I'm repeatedly asked about marketing on WhatsApp, which takes a strong stance on never allowing ads. You may read about brands like Adidas 'marketing' on WhatsApp but the reality is for mass brands, you can't get scale on a platform that has no advertising products and a chat group limit of 256 people. Line and WeChat are your best bets in Asia.
So what about Snapchat?
The young ephemeral pretender has the industry salivating. Finally, a genuine contender that has achieved scale with teens and millennials in a ton of Western markets helped by a 'here and now,' mobile only vertical UX with a load of fun customisation baked in. (That puts off old people—so no being added by mum and dad). Most interestingly for brands, it also has some pretty decent ad products that on the whole well integrated into the user experience.
Source: GWI Snapchat Profile Q4 2015 report
Opportunities for brands, a quick summary
3V stands for vertical video views. This is a branded native video ad product that lasts 10 seconds and can appear in live stories (curated stories available to the whole SC community) and in content residing in 'discover,' a list of publishers including BuzzFeed and Vice, that create content for Snapchat every day. They play full screen, with sound but like with all snaps can be instantly skipped. Brands also need to provide the content in vertical (which can be a big ask).
For a longer form video alternative, there are 'sponsored stories'. These also appear within the discover platform but separately (not within the publishers stories). They take the prominent top left position, such as this Burberry example (and are clearly marked 'sponsored'), and are a collection of 10-second snaps from the advertiser.
Then there are 'sponsored geofilters', which allow you to target a location, such as proximity to a store or an event (like these brands did for SXSW).
Arguably the most powerful product however are 'sponsored lenses'. Users of Snapchat go crazy for lenses. If you haven't tried it, you can basically take a selfie, then add a themed lens that customises the photo or video. Snapchat provides a bunch of these every day. People film themselves with the lens and can also draw or write on the snap to customise further. It is then shared with friends, added to users’ stories or screengrabbed and pasted to other social platforms. Prompted by the success of Snapchat lenses and in an attempt to try and stay down with the kids, Facebook bought face swapping app Msqrd.
Recently Snapchat opened lenses up to brands. The most impactful I've seen has to be Gatorade’s super bowl lens (see below). According to L2inc and Adweek, the lens achieved 100 million views and was 13 times cheaper than running a TV spot (not to mention also benefiting from a ton of engagement; the views are all of friends and celebs using the lens).
A key thing to remember is that due to the ephemeral nature of the app, all sponsored lenses, stories and content within publisher stories, only last 24 hours.
So what about Snapchat in Asia?
The truth is, right now Snapchat doesn't offer much for marketers in Asia. Having met Snapchat in London a couple weeks ago, I can share firsthand that none of the above mentioned ad products are available in any Asian market.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost, Snapchat has grown very fast, very quickly in quite a few Western markets. It only recently opened a second office in London and needs to manage expansion whilst continuing to innovate for the benefit of its users, but also marketers who are demanding more from the platform in terms of data and verification.
Currently the ad products above are available in 25 markets, with Australia being the only market in the APAC region on the list. Sponsored stories and lenses need to also run in the UK or the US and be extended to the other markets; it's not currently possible to just run a campaign in France or Norway, for example.
In addition to the lack of advertising options, there is also little evidence that Snapchat has enough scale in other markets in Asia (apart from in Singapore).
That's that then?
Snapchat doesn't offer the same opportunities in Asia that it does in Europe right now—fact. However whilst it may not be ranking very highly on industry reports at the moment, I wouldn't be surprised if come the end of year Snapchat achieves scale with young, affluent audiences in Southeast Asia and India. This may mean, for example 8 million 18- to 24-year-olds in Indonesia. That may not sound like much in a country of 260 million, but if you're marketing the latest Galaxy S7, Urban Decay makeup or Adidas Originals, that's a significant proportion of your target market. One only has to look at influential YouTubers in Indonesia to see that the majority of them are now on Snapchat, and where they lead, others will follow.
Snapchat allows anyone to set up a profile and start sharing stories to followers. This means that brands can also set up local profiles, share their Snap code / user id, and people who follow can then opt into watching the the brands published 'stories'. The good news for brands is Snapchat users seem pretty keen on doing this, with 57 percent of people saying they follow brands, according to a GWI study.
So if you think you can produce entertaining content regularly, shot in vertical, and navigate through your organisation's internal bureaucracy and get it approved, it presents a great opportunity to get in early and grow with the platform. Alternatively, try something with an influencer who's big on Snapchat (and demand the view count as part of the agreement).
Just remember that as with all platforms (including most recently Instagram) you will end up needing to pay to distribute your content at significant scale. However, for the few brands that will be able to crack achieving a sizable organic fellowship, it presents a great opportunity to connect regularly with a core group of followers.
Jonathan Rudd is regional digital director of Carat APAC