Interview: Snapchat on ‘game-changing’ role in AR advertising

Once best known for its teen-friendly photo and video filters, Snapchat has emerged as a trailblazer in the realm of mobile marketing, offering a unique and authentic platform for users and advertisers alike.

“Snapchat was designed to be different from traditional social media—to help people express themselves with friends visually without the pressure to grow a following or compete for likes,” Snapchat UK Business Solutions Director, Fintan Gillespie tells Mobile Marketing Magazine.

“That’s why Snapchat opens up to the camera, rather than a newsfeed,” he reveals.

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Snapchat, which launched in 2011, currently reaches 90% of 13-24 years olds in over 20 countries allowing advertisers to speak directly to its audience and target their ads based on key viewer demographics including age, gender, location, interests and behaviour.

“We’ve evolved massively over the years, which goes for our marketing tools too” Gillespie states.

“We have a range of tools and features that help marketers effectively reach our audience in terms of engagement and driving customer KPIs.”

Most recently the social media giant launched Creator Collab Campaigns, its suite of products that help make it easier for advertisers to partner with the influential creator community on the platform.

He says: “Snapchatters come to us to connect with their friends and family but they stay for the creators and content they follow, which has been key to advancing our advertising capabilities.”

On AR being a “game changer”

At the forefront of augmented reality (AR) innovation, Snapchat has revolutionised advertising by enabling interactive AR experiences.

Brands including Deliveroo, Rimmel, Asos and JD Sports have all leveraged AR to actively engage users hoping to build a deeper connection with their audience.

The platform’s AR try-on features, powered by AI, provide users with immersive experiences, such as trying on virtual clothing, significantly impacting conversion rates and reducing return rates, Gillespie claims.

“AR gives consumers an immersive experience, and it offers a richer form of consumer engagement for advertisers. Video is a great way of reaching consumers but having your target audience play with a branded Lens is next level.

He adds: “We’re known as leaders in AR and we help a huge number of our customers reach their target audience through creative and engaging experiences that get people actively interacting with ads to drive business results, which has been game-changing for our brand partners.

“We are set to see a huge leap in adoption thanks to the rapidly evolving marriage of AR with AI, transforming the process to make AR an even more cost-effective, timely, and useful tool that will take retail, in its entirety, into a new dimension — to the extent that we soon won’t be able to remember shopping without AR assistance.”

To ensure a safe and secure environment

Safety and privacy are key at Snapchat. Recently, it rolled out new updates to its parental control and supervision tools.

The tool, which will now make it easier for parents to monitor their kids’ exposure levels on the platform.

In 2022, the platform launched Family Center, its set of parental tools that allows parents to see who their teens are talking to on the app, confidentially report any concerns, and set content controls – all of which can help prompt important conversations about safety.

Gillespie notes: “We’ve designed Snapchat with safety in mind, which is core in preventing the spread of harmful content, making a safe and secure environment for advertisers too. We don’t offer an open news feed where unvetted publishers or individuals have an opportunity to broadcast hate, misinformation, or violent content.

“We also use a combination of automated tools and human review to moderate our public content surfaces like Spotlight, Public Stories, and Maps, including machine learning tools and dedicated teams of real people, who review potentially inappropriate content in public posts.”

On the relevance of ephemeral content

Snapchat’s unique feature of disappearing content aligns with real-world conversations, he says.

“Conversations in real life aren’t recorded, and we think digital conversations should mirror our real-world actions. Disappearing content makes online interaction feel more human and more grounded in the present moment, easing the pressure or anxiety about posting things permanently.

“Whilst advertisers can’t advertise in our chat function, what this environment provides is a safe place, where Snapchatters can be their most authentic selves, without the pressure to be perfect, which has been proven to make them more receptive to ads, which is a huge benefit to marketers.”

On the future mobile marketing trends

“2023 will be remembered as the year AI went mainstream. AI has long powered Snapchat – helping deliver a personalised experience, and now AI is helping us to create even more sophisticated and advanced AR experiences,” he says.

This year, the UK Business Solutions Director expects even more AR experiences that can be delivered to people much faster, thanks to AI accelerating AR training and content development.

He also believes AI will see the creator industry evolve further.

This comes as over 200 million people now consider themselves creators, and this year, marketers are expected to spend more than $32 billion on influencer marketing.

He adds: “We expect to see more creators start to experiment with AI tools to help get creative, produce content, and crunch data.

“While there have been stories of AI influencers, we believe success will lie with the creators who maintain a human connection – using AI as a helpful tool, not a stand-in.”

Beyond AI, Gillespie notes the current macroeconomic variables will keep up the pressure on marketers to demonstrate ROI, and expects a shift towards multi-touch attribution solutions that track and determine the value of different customer touch-points.

He concludes that this will be particularly important for ecommerce as “marketers seek to get better insights on which platforms are driving sales and conversions”.