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At a time when Facebook and Google are orienting their ad sales around driving actual product sales for advertisers, Snapchat is an outlier. The mobile app has almost purely been a play for marketers to raise brand awareness and -- aside from the brand lift studies it conducts with Millward Brown Digital -- Snapchat doesn't provide advertisers much information beyond how many people saw their ads.
"The reality there is it's not as user-friendly in the sense it doesn't have a dashboard you can log into with the ease of Google Analytics to understand the 15 metrics you want to understand," said Eric Rose, a brand manager at Procter & Gamble who handles the brand's work with retailers.
That could have posed a big problem for P&G's plans to promote CoverGirl's limited-edition Star Wars collection. P&G had two goals for the campaign. First, it sought to increase its brand awareness. Second, it wanted to sell products. Snapchat has proven its ability to fulfill the former but not the latter. Despite that sales-driving shortcoming, Snapchat was still seen as the campaign's sweet spot.
The themed line of eye and face makeup was only available for sale at Ulta stores, so CoverGirl needed a way to drive its target customers -- "the younger side of the millennial generation," Mr. Rose said -- into Ulta's brick-and-mortar locations. "For us, Snapchat's really that perfect intersection of mobile brand-building in a social space. And for Ulta it's a place they're trying to win," he said.
Snapchat offered something else that made it attractive to P&G: geo-targeting. P&G was able to set up geofilters around a majority of the 868 Ulta stores across the country stocking the Star Wars line. When people went to post a photo or video to Snapchat within a certain proximity to the stores, they could place a branded overlay, or filter, atop the post so that anyone they shared it with through Snapchat would see the cosmetics line as well as CoverGirl's and Ulta's branding.
"What's unique about geofilters is it kind of flips purchase-based targeting on its head. It's not about historical or behavioral benchmarks. It's more about she's likely to seek out and discover the proposition that we're offering in the place we're offering it," said Mr. Rose, who declined to say how much P&G spent on the campaign.
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But purchase-based targeting is only worthwhile if a brand can prove the targeting pushed people to purchase a product. And unlike Facebook or Google, Snapchat doesn't offer a way to trace the ads in its app to sales or even foot traffic in stores.
For the CoverGirl campaign, P&G received three statistics from Snapchat: 1) how many views its ads received 2) how many times people used the branded filter and 3) how many times people swiped over to see its branded filter when posting to Snapchat vs. the number of times people actually used it, which Mr. Rose described as akin to the ad's engagement rate.
In order to correlate those numbers with in-store sales, P&G had to isolate a few things. It limited its campaign to Snapchat only and didn't run those ads around every Ulta store in order to create a control group. And the campaign only featured two versions of the creative, one for each of the collection's two product lines. As a result, P&G was able to cross-reference sales between the stores it advertised and the ones it didn't and could drill down to see how many more sales of which of the collection's two product lines the geo-filtered stores generated, which could then be attributed to the Snapchat campaign.
Mr. Rose declined to provide performance numbers on the campaign, which is still running and which he described "entirely as a pilot." But by comparing the Star Wars collection's sales with same-store sales for 2013's similarly themed Hunger Games collection -- whose ad campaign included TV spots and a branded Tumblr blog -- he said the Star Wars campaign was more cost-efficient and had more of an impact.
"As marketers continue to look for ways to drive sales by integrating social media, digital media and mobile media, the closer we get to the end of that purchase funnel in a way that Snapchat allows us to, and I think we have that much higher probability of having success," Mr. Rose said.