Snapchat, not long ago an ad-free platform, is preparing to ramp up the promotional content. In a series of industry-targeted announcements, the company has detailed several initiatives that will inevitably result in users seeing ads more frequently than they do now.
With over 50 million North American users and 100 million total, it apparently is time for Snapchat to make some real money. Chances are, given that the company has taken on several rounds of venture capital investments, Snapchat is looking ahead to an IPO. When you want to go public, you start to feel the pressure to be profitable on your own terms, without rich guys infusing the business with money.
Changes for users ahead
So what's the deal for the end user? Nothing apocalyptic just yet. While no precise timeline has been shared, the methods that will be used to serve ads shouldn't feel outright spammy by any means. The most prominent form of ad you should be on the lookout for are ads between stories; every so often, before you can swipe onward to the next story, you will have to view an ad.
In contexts where the ads will be less obtrusive, users will be given the option to swipe up on them, which may reveal content like videos or links to install an app. But for the most part, it's not the how but the how much that will likely be what changes.
Things like sponsored filters, which have popped up already, will be feasible for a broader range of advertisers. From the sponsor's perspective, having their brand be part of a meaningful interaction is far more valuable than something like a banner ad that you may not even notice.
More ad buyers
The main thing to take away from Snapchat's announcements is that they are moving away from their current process, which involves the company working out deals on an ad hoc basis with advertisers. Now they are creating an API and several other support structures to open the floodgates to a number of advertisers beyond what could be managed case-by-case.
For ad buyers, Snapchat is rolling out partnerships with several third parties to expand their offerings. On one side, you have companies that will help with targeting and the like. On the other, there are agencies that Snapchat will point buyers to if they want help with the creative elements of their ad campaign. Snapchat seems to rightly believe that an effective ad on their app will probably need to be designed explicitly for Snapchat, which means resources will be needed to make that happen even when the advertiser has many active campaigns elsewhere.
Snapchat has said that for the time being, every single ad will be vetted by humans to ensure quality. This should leave you reasonably assured that there won't be any spammy "Download Now!" buttons or anything of that ilk.
But what only time will tell is whether Snapchat can strike the right balance in terms of the quantity and nature of sponsored content, so that the ads don't become too central to the experience of using the app. As we all know, people can and will find a new service if they aren't treated well.