With Snapchat's First Ad Format on Hold, Focus Shifts to Live Event Feeds

Mobile Messaging App Is Tweaking Its 'Our Story' Sales Pitch

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Snapchat headquarters in Venice Beach, Calif.
Snapchat headquarters in Venice Beach, Calif. Credit: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg

Snapchat is refining its pitch to advertisers: It's like traditional media -- but on a phone and with a big audience of people less likely to check out traditional media such as linear TV or print magazines.

That explains why Snapchat is pulling back on its first ad format. The company has stopped selling Brand Story ads that let advertisers pay to promote a standalone piece of branded content within the mobile app, as Re/code reported earlier this week.

In the wake of eliminating that ad format, Snapchat is touting its TV-like Our Story feeds in meetings with media buyers, as well as its magazine-like publisher portal Discover. The company is also modifying its Our Story feeds, which were rolled out in June 2014 as a way for people at events like music festivals or football games to post on-site snaps that are stitched into a linear feed.

Snapchat will be renaming its Our Story feeds to more obviously portray them as live event feeds, according to people familiar with the matter. Three people said the content format will be called Live Story, though one person said it would be called Live Event and another said it would simply be called Live. For clarity's sake, this article will refer to them as Live Story feeds.

A Snapchat spokeswoman declined to comment.

Snapchat may be prioritizing its Live Story feeds because they're easier for advertisers to understand than the more native Brand Story ads and are increasingly popular among Snapchat's users, as are their adjoining ads. A Snapchat-commissioned survey conducted by Millward Brown Digital late last year found that 60% of respondents liked the ads run within Our Story feeds, compared to 44% who liked the Brand Story spots.

Taking content and organizing it into a linear feed makes it a viable rival for live event TV feeds. And advertisers love live TV, as the Super Bowl demonstrates each year. Advertisers would likely also love the fact that the average Live Story garners 20 million daily views, according to several executives. That may have to do with more adults using the app. Snapchat is considered the hot mobile app to get in front of teens, but 70% of its users are actually 18-years-old or older.

All of which explains why Snapchat is able to command big bucks for Live Story ads. Snapchat is asking marketers to pay between $400,000 and $500,000 for a full takeover of a Live Story feed, which would include a brand mention on the opening title card, as well as branded snaps interspersed throughout the feed, the executives said. But Snapchat is also offering a lower-priced option in which a brand can pay $100,000 for a single branded snap that can run for up to 10 seconds.

Snapchat debuted its second ad product in November 2014, an 'Our Story' stream sponsored by Samsung.
Snapchat debuted its second ad product in November 2014, an 'Our Story' stream sponsored by Samsung.

In either case, a single marketer won't necessarily be able to keep that live feed to itself. Instead, Snapchat is looking to get three to four advertisers per Live Story, with a guarantee that each brand will be the only one in its category to advertise within a given Live Story.

Snapchat is also pitching ads that will run in its more localized Live Stories, such as the ones specific to people on certain college campuses called Campus Stories or in cities like Los Angeles and New York that are called Local Stories. Those localized Live Story ads are said to cost roughly $50,000 a pop.

Snapchat seems to want advertisers to think of their Snapchat stories as ads, not so-called native content that looks like what regular people may post to Snapchat and that a brand can pay to promote. Not only has the company pulled back on the somewhat native Brand Story ads, but it has also restricted how native a brand's Live Story ad can be.

For example, marketers aren't able to shoot on-the-fly footage at a live event for their Live Story ads. Instead, Snapchat requires the ads be pre-produced, though brands can roll the dice and post organic snaps at an event in hopes of Snapchat's team opting to include them in the Live Story feed for free.

Snapchat will tell marketers how many unique viewers and total views their ads receive, as well as completion rates. However brands are still left in the dark when it comes to their regular Snapchat accounts. Marketers have to ask their Snapchat representatives each month to find out how many followers their brand has on the service.

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