It’s like Snapchat for ads - How Snapchat might revolutionize mobile advertising by playing to their strengths

Originally published on Medium on Dec. 3, 2013

I would have sold for $3 billion. I would have sold for four. But regardless, Snapchat is now in a position where they need to prove there’s a viable business model for their app. Here’s one way they might:

Snapchat should make their ads optional to open. Perhaps they’ll add an ad to the app-badge indicator, perhaps they won’t. Regardless, it’s human nature to open a mysterious box. Even if that box says “Do Not Open.” Many might cry foul and say “I wouldn’t open it if I knew it were an ad!” But I say you, on average, would. A “Sponsored Snap” that lies dormant in your inbox might drive people crazy, and as more and more pile up, you might finally snap and press-and-hold each one until they’re all gone. You might even squeeze your eyes shut or shift your eyes towards your Twitter feed while you’re doing so, but most will simply view the ads. Even if Snapchat separates ads into a separate section (presumably under “Stories”), an unopened ad will still call to you.

Rest assured Snapchat will find ways to incentivize you. Just as Instagram’s ads are (mostly) tasteful and fit in to the endless stream of sepia tinted photos of coffee cups, Snapchat’s ads will play to the aesthetic of Snapchat users’ photos: selfies, grain, and goofiness. Additionally, Snapchat will ensure many people will want to open them by making the ads have benefits, such as deals, coupons, funny jokes and faces, and interesting, exclusive content — think the Most Interesting Man in the World, Flo from Progressive, the Allstate Mayhem man, special deals at Urban Outfitters, or even in-your-face, video-based click-bait headlines that lead you to ViralNova, Buzzfeed, and all those other productivity hells.

Add this to the fact that, to save something on Snapchat, you have to be on your screenshot A-game, and you have a recipe for virality. A hilarious ad that is exclusive to Snapchat, only to be displayed for a few seconds, would be screenshotted by thousands because it’s time-limited, and eventually will end up in a BuzzFeed “article” titled something like “The 22 funniest ads on Snapchat you probably didn’t see.”

By making the ad ephemeral, it increases its perceived worth to the user, and increases its likelihood of free marketing through sharing and online “news” sources, and by making it optional, it allows ads to feel opt-in. The user is in control, so there won’t be the same sort of backlash seen by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and the customer is even drawn in because, unlike an ad on a website or in a newsfeed, which is seen by a user and then ignored, a Snapchat user will want to see an ad because they don’t have to. What business wouldn’t want that when advertising?