Snapchat ads take closer aim with new retargeting-lite, goal-based bidding options

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If advertising were like fishing — and it definitely is — then Snapchat is creating new nets to help advertisers corral the people they are most likely to hook into interacting with their brand, such as by installing a marketer’s app or buying its product.

A new Snapchat ad-targeting option lets advertisers send follow-up ads to the people who had previously interacted with one of their ads on the mobile app. And a new ad-buying option lets mobile app marketers price their bids on Snapchat’s app-install ads in a way that makes it more likely the ads will get people to install their apps.

Let’s start with the new ad-targeting option, which is called Snap Engagement Audiences. It’s basically retargeting, but not the kind that has an ad for a pair of jeans following you around the web. This retargeting is confined to actions people take on Snapchat, and specifically, actions people take on Snapchat ads.

If someone simply watches a standard Snap Ad, they can’t be retargeted. But if someone interacts with the ad — e.g., the person uses a brand’s Sponsored Lens, applies a brand’s Sponsored Geofilter to a photo or video (unless it’s an event-based Sponsored Geofilter) or swipes up on a brand’s Snap Ad to play a longer video, visit a microsite, view an advertorial or install an app — then the brand can send another ad to that person that builds on their demonstrated interest.

For example, the week before a film’s release, a movie studio could run a Sponsored Lens campaign for people to take a selfie as one of the film’s characters. Then on the day the movie premieres, the studio could target the people who used the Lens with Snap Ads that they can swipe up on to open a microsite to buy tickets to the film.

Snap Engagement Audiences pools the people who interacted with a brand’s Snapchat ad (or a bundle of multiple ads) into a group so that the brand can target new ads to that group. It’s similar to the Snap Audience Match targeting that Snapchat introduced in September 2016 that lets brands upload a list of email addresses and target ads to people in that group.

Once a Snap Engagement Audience group has been created, the advertiser can use that group to target a new ad that builds on their already demonstrated interest. Or it could set that group aside. Instead, the brand could opt to exclude the group from seeing the new ad, so those people don’t get annoyed by the brand and the brand’s money isn’t spent trying to win over people it had already won over. Alternatively, the brand could use that group to have Snapchat pinpoint a lookalike audience of people who share similar characteristics and therefore might be as likely to interact with the brand’s new ad.

Sophisticated as Snap Engagement Audiences sounds, its sequencing is shallow. Advertisers cannot set up a campaign with multiple stages of follow-up ads — at least not easily. Technically, advertisers can only target people based on the initial engagement, according to a Snap spokesperson. That means an advertiser cannot construct a ad-targeting flow chart that creates an engagement audience of people who interacted with an initial ad and then creates a sub-audience of people who interacted with the follow-up ad, so that the brand then can have a third ad sent to those people who engaged with both of its previous ads. While this type of multi-step sequencing can overcomplicate things, it can also win over people who may be interested in a brand’s product but on the fence about buying it.

In other words, the aforementioned hypothetical movie studio cannot simply set up a campaign that begins with the Sponsored Lens, follows with a swipeable Snap Ad that carries a two-minute-long trailer, and then caps off with a swipeable Snap Ad that opens a microsite to buy tickets.

But that kind of multi-stage sequential targeting seems to be possible with some effort. For example, the movie studio could create a Snap Engagement Audience — let’s label it Group A — based on the initial Sponsored Lens, then only show the trailer-carrying Snap Ad to people in Group A. Then the brand could create an all-new Snap Engagement Audience — labeled Group B — that’s made up of people who swiped up on Snap Ad with the trailer, and then show the microsite-carrying Snap Ad only to people in Group B.

If Snapchat were to add a way to dynamically, automatically spawn new Snap Engagement Audiences based on existing ones, that could make the feature more useful for advertisers, especially for marketers like auto brands, whose sales processes involve multiple stages of courtship.

Snapchat’s new engagement-based targeting could also come in handy when paired with a new ad-buying option that is rolling out for mobile app marketers.

Snapchat is adding an option for mobile app marketers to price their bids in Snapchat’s ad auction based on how much they would be willing to pay for someone to install their app, and in exchange, Snapchat will take care to show that ad to the people it thinks are most likely to install the app.

That might sound a little odd. Wouldn’t mobile app marketers already set their bids this way? Maybe, maybe not. Unlike Facebook or Google, Snapchat doesn’t let advertisers buy its app-install ads and only pay when people actually install the app; instead they are charged based on the numbers of times Snapchat serves the ad, regardless of the outcome. That could lead advertisers to lowball their bids in order to not pay for ads that don’t pay off. So the new goal-based bidding option — which is similar to Facebook’s objective-based bidding option — aims to be something of a middle ground. The advertiser is still paying Snapchat based on the number of ad impressions, but those impressions are supposed to carry more potential for the advertiser and thereby elicit higher bids for Snapchat. To return to the fishing analogy, goal-based bidding seeks to cast a wide net to catch more fish but to be smarter about how that net is cast so the advertiser catches more than a couple of guppies.

I’m waiting to hear back from the Snap spokesperson on whether the goal-based bidding option can be used in tandem with Snap Engagement Audiences. If it can, then a mobile game advertiser could run a Snap Ad that features a long video documenting how the game is played to seed people’s interest. Then it could follow up with a Snap Ad to install the app but only show it to the people who not only watched the longer game trailer but also are considered likely to actually install the game. That Venn diagram-style targeting might be pricier for being so pinpointed but also could pay off by being more cost-efficient.

About The Author

Tim Peterson, Third Door Media’s Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat’s ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar’s attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon’s ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube’s programming strategy, Facebook’s ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking’s rise; and documented digital video’s biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed’s branded video production process and Snapchat Discover’s ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands’ early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo’s and Google’s search designs and examine the NFL’s YouTube and Facebook video strategies.


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