Snapchat Finally Lets Advertisers Use Pixels to Track Ad Results and Eventually Retarget

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Snapchat is releasing a pixel for advertisers to track performance and retarget.
Snapchat is releasing a pixel for advertisers to track performance and retarget. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Snapchat ads are about to get more targeted, as the app is embracing a marketing technology that until recently its CEO had considered creepy.

Snapchat is giving its advertisers the ability to employ a pixel, a key tool to make ads more trackable and targeted. By putting a pixel, really a bit of digital code, on their websites, brands can then measure when a person saw their ads somewhere else in the digital ecosystem. Pixels are also used to retarget ads, showing people ads they had already seen elsewhere.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has been wary of such ad technology in the past, fearing the creep factor of following consumers across the internet with ads that won't leave people alone. However, Snapchat has had to embrace those tactics as it looks to develop as sophisticated advertising model that can compete with the likes of Facebook and Google.

Snapchat will let its users opt out of retargeting, according to a spokesman. For now the pixel is being used for measurement purposes only, the spokesman says. Snapchat will open retargeting capabilities later this year.

"With a pixel, you can measure downstream activity across devices," says Aaron Goldman, CMO of 4C, a Snapchat ads platform partner. "This lets you see what consumers do after they engage with an ad."

The technology is used by almost every major ad technology and internet company, including Facebook, Google and Twitter.

Snapchat has been building out its ad technology for the past two years, making it easier for brands to automate campaigns, bid on ad space, and measure the performance.

Most big advertisers demand a basic level of ad technology if they are going to commit big bucks to a platform. Snapchat is calling the pixel a "foundational piece in Snap's performance product suite."

"It lets marketers measure the revenue, performance, growth, and acquisition driven by Snapchat--such as website visits, purchases, and sign-ups--across devices," Sanpchat said in an e-mailed statement. "Over the coming months, we'll release additional features beyond measurement -- such as custom audience creation and real-time optimization -- designed to help businesses drive the most meaningful user actions for them."

"The company approached the implementation thoughtfully -- and will offer an opt-out when that feature launches," the spokesman said.

Snapchat is expected to generate $775 million in ad dollars this year, but the growth in the business has been slower than expected, according to eMarketer. It has faced tough competition from Facebook, especially, which has used Instagram to offer brands a similar vertical video ad product.

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