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Snapchat Filters Ads Now Target People -- Not Just Places

By Published on .

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Quaker Oats-sponsored filters were targeted with specific messages depending on time of day.
Quaker Oats-sponsored filters were targeted with specific messages depending on time of day. Credit: Snapchat

Brands can now apply more-advanced targeting tools to Snapchat photo filter campaigns, enabling them to reach select audiences and experiment more with the creative messaging, the company says.

The messaging and media app is calling the new tool, which arrives Tuesday, "audience filters." Instead of just hitting a specific location (which is what its geofilter does), brands can target based on interests, time of day, age, gender and other technical criteria.

"This signals that Snapchat is willing to start to do more for advertisers," says Aaron Goldman, CMO of 4C Insights, a Snapchat ads platform partner. "Reaching someone when you know they're at your store, that's farming. Audience filters—that's more like hunting."

Filters, or the overlays that people use to decorate photos and videos, are one of Snapchat's most-used products, with 3 billion of them viewed a day, according to the company. Snapchat usually offers a variety for people to choose from. The filters are an attractive ad unit for brands.

Quaker Oats, owned by PepsiCo, is among the brands that have already tried the new audience-based filter campaigns. It targeted mothers and working professionals, divided the campaign into day and night, and tweaked the message depending on time of day.

"Geofilters and audience filters have fundamentally different targeting strengths," Abhishek Jadon, director digital strategy at Pepsi North America Nutrition, wrote in an email. "Geofilters allow you to target very granular geographic areas, whereas audience filters can be targeted based on a host of behavioral attributes."

Quaker Oats worked on the campaign with VaynerMedia, a Snapchat ads platform partner. Snapchat has built tight relations with select agencies familiar with its ad platform, which help brands run their campaigns and use the targeting capabilities.

"What intrigues us most about Snapchat's filters is the combination of paid and earned media delivery rolled seamlessly into a single ad unit," Jon Morgenstern, VP of paid media, at VaynerMedia, said in an e-mail. "When you consider the earned impressions derived from Snapchatters sending out Snaps using the filters to their friends, in addition to the paid delivery costs, the effective CPMs paid can be extremely efficient."

The filters now have the same targeting tools as Snapchat's video ads, and they can both be bought in auctions on the self-serve platform. This summer, Snapchat upgraded its ads manager with an advanced mode, inspired by Facebook's Power Editor, which lets advertisers design, test and publish ads in a more streamlined fashion.

Snapchat has slowly been rolling out the ad technology it needs to attract the kind of non-stop advertisers that power Facebook and Google's businesses.

The automated ad system has helped introduce more brands to Snapchat, and there were five times as many advertisers in the third quarter compared to the prior quarter, according to Snapchat's financial report earlier this month. However, the automated ad system also drove down prices, which dropped 60 percent in the third quarter.

Snapchat's ad sales reached $208 million in the third quarter, according to the report. That fell below expectations, according to analysts.

The company has been promising an app redesign to make it easier for both consumers and advertisers to understand the value of the platform.

Most recently, Snapchat launched a pixel, considered an essential ad tech offering. Pixels track consumers across the web and help brands retarget ads to people that visited their websites, among other data and measurement benefits.

Snapchat is still seen as immature in its advertising offering, and a number of agencies and brands have been frustrated by its slow progress. On Tuesday, Snapchat also said it would open an online tutorial to help get brands and agencies up to speed on how the platform works.

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