Snapchat, the mobile app enabling users to send each other pictures and videos that disappear after a few seconds, is paving the way for advertising. The social network’s chief executive, Evan Spiegel, told a Vanity Fair conference last week that ads would launch on the three-year-old service "soon".
So long as it navigates itself out of a hacking scandal – more than 100,000 images have reportedly been leaked – Snapchat has huge potential.
With a reported 100 million monthly users worldwide sending 700 million Snaps a day, and a strong appeal to teenagers (half of whom in the UK claim to have used it), Snapchat could help brands communicate with tech-savvy young people.
Spiegel said the ads would not feature in the disappearing message service but in the Snapchat Stories feature, which allows users to bundle a series of Snaps and send them to friends (the content is automatically deleted after 24 hours).
He said the platform would not give advertisers any user data – which is erased with the messages – leading some to describe any advertising as "untargeted" spam.
His announcement followed speculation that Yahoo was poised to invest $20 million in Snapchat. Meanwhile, there have been reports that it is planning to launch a service called Snapchat Discovery, enabling brands to show news snippets and short videos.
Last year, MTV promoted its Snapchat account for the reality series Geordie Shore on Twitter and Facebook, and sent exclusive pictures from the show to its followers on the app. It also uses the Our Story feature, through which users in the same location can contribute Snaps to the same "story".
Channel 4 has a Snapchat account for Hollyoaks and The Co-operative has used it to send out promotional codes, while Lynx has also experimented with the app. Users must follow brands to receive promotions and opt in for ads.
So brands will not be able to make an unannounced interruption and will have to earn the respect of users and give them strong reasons for following them. This is considered to be an essential step given the susceptibility of young digital natives to rejecting unsolicited brand invasions. But is it enough?
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