Snapchat is all grown up. Thanks to some big changes this year, the disappearing photo app has become more lucrative for marketers than ever before.
Feeling the pressure from other networks—especially Instagram Stories—Snapchat has shaken things up this year with new targeted ad offerings, mid-roll ads and a big Stories update offering more control for its users. Setting itself further apart from competitors, the app has even been re-branding itself as a camera company. Now calling itself Snap Inc., the photo-sharing company has been on the lookout for original shows to host on its platform.
Perhaps the most iconic feature of Snapchat, of course, is the lens. Superimposing dog ears or flower garlands over a selfie has become quite the popular pasttime, and gaming brands in particular have found a lot of success with sponsored filters this year. In a kind of “instant cosplay,” users can snap a picture of themselves and the lens does the rest—transforming the person into one of the X-Men like Cyclops, a karaoke-singing zombie or an iconic video game character like Marcus Fenix (Gears of War 4). Despite the hefty price tag, these new ad products have earned their reputation as the preferred method for creating memorable moments with millennials.
Snaps have also gotten a lot more expressive since Snapchat acquired Bitstrips earlier this year. Users can now download the Bitmoji app on either Android or iOS and link the account with their Snapchat profile to share custom emoji with their friends and followers.
Once dedicated only to photo sharing, brands have taken marketing to a whole new level this year with the first 360-degree video ad (Sony: Don’t Breathe) and the first multi-level video game ad (Gatorade: Serena Williams’ Matchpoint). Of course, disappearing messages are perfect for limited-time offers, exclusive deals and teasers for new products. When Toyota says “let’s go places,” that includes music festivals—the car manufacturer was a major presence at this year’s Lollapalooza with an exclusive, pop-up concert accessible only through a Snapchat geo-filter.
Snapchat—unlike its photos—won’t be disappearing any time soon. While advertising on the platform isn’t cheap, the investment has certainly paid off for a number of brands, particularly when it comes to reaching a millennial audience. Of Snapchat’s 200 million users, 45 percent are between the ages of 18 to 24, according to eMarketer, which predicts the social network’s ad revenue will generate nearly a billion dollars in 2017.