The new age of social media advertising: Snapchat?

Written by: Desislava Nedelcheva




Nowadays, almost everyone has heard about Snapchat, the mobile app for sharing entertaining content. However, the more interesting question is, whether this unique mobile app is perceived as a social media platform for advertising and marketing. The most recent event that proved what a powerful advertising tool Snapchat might become was Super bowl in 2016. The worldwide prominent American football event in 2016 is not only related with the championship of the National Football League for Denver Broncos, but it also provoked analyses of the social media activity. For a first time since many years the social activity was not solely dominated by Facebook and Twitter. There was a new player in the game, called Snapchat. Even though Facebook and Twitter encompassed higher volume of social ads run around Super Bowl, brands as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Amazon, 20th Century Fox, GE, and Marriott made the most of every Snapchat’s advertising feature (Cicero, 2016). However, Facebook and Twitter noted 25% drop in their Super Bowl social activity compared to 2015 (McGee, 2016). Hence, based on the fact that the younger generation prefers to adopt to newer media, recent news pointed out a drop in the use of the leading social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The extraordinary mobile app, Snapchat distinguishes among the other social media sites through its unique feature. The shared photos/videos with friends (called Snaps) dissolve after several seconds (Utz et al, 2015). The purpose of this e-paper is not only to examine the Snapchat’s immense success, but also to point out its strategic implications for brands through several examples. Moreover, the paper aims to highlight the most important reasons, why brand managers should take Snapchat into consideration as a new social media advertising platform with a potential of reaching out 100 million users per month.  

Snapchat “Fund and Awareness” (source: Paresh, 2016)


Snapchat an instant messaging phenomenon

At the beginning of 21st century the usage of internet-enabled mobile phones has dramatically increased. Therefore, instant messaging (IM) has become an inseparable tool of the fast pace global communication. Instant messaging is perceived as an online chat, through which text, images, videos or voice records can be exchanged over the Internet. In addition, IM allows the transmission of emotions via emoticons, information provision or even surveying (Piwek & Joinson, 2016). In 2014 50 billion IM per day were sent, which is twice as many as the traditional text messages (Curtis, 2014). According to a Juniper Research in 2014, it is assessed that this number will continue growing. Hence, in 2018 it is expected that 75% of the mobile traffic to be based of IM apps. Nowadays, IM features are incorporated in almost every social media platform, which provides additional smartphone app services as Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Google + or LinkedIn. Moreover, there are several standalone IM mobile services as WhatsApp, Skype, or Instagram. All these besides streaming voices and video chat interaction services as Skype have one trait in common – the transferred content is stored by the senders’ and the receivers’ devices as a communication history. However, recently was set a new age of IM, called Snapchat. What makes this genuine service to differentiate from the existing ones is the fact that the shared content between the users dissolves after a limited period of time (Piwek & Joinson, 2016). Snapchat noted an extraordinary growth in the history of instant messaging services and social media platforms. It increased its users from 70 million in the early 2014, up to 100 million in the early 2015. In August 2014 the company was evaluated to be $10 billion by two independent parties. This amount increased with $9 billion in 2015 (Wohlsen, 2015).

Must know facts

Taking into consideration the high level of audience reach through Snapchat, brands such as CNN, Sony, Viacom, BMW, and many others started to advertise on the unique mobile app. In comparison to Twitter, which reaches 23.8 % of all Millennials, Snapchat manages to approach 32.9 %. Snapchat gets in touch with the young generation, i.e. median users’ age is 18, whereas Facebook’s median users age is 40 (Silberman, 2015 & Sashittal et al, 2016). Snapchat reaches 4 billion video views a day, which is the same amount as Facebook (Adweek, 2015). Moreover, essential to mention is that Snapchat draws the attention of about 100 million users monthly. Hence, 60% of whom are in the age bracket from 18 to 34 years old. In addition, the mobile app generates 2 billion video views daily (Snapchat, 2015). Therefore, based on the impressive statistics, Snapchat not only surpassed Twitter by becoming the third most preferred social media platform after Facebook and Instagram among 18 to 34 years olds, but it also represents the sole most popular social media among teenagers. Despite its remarkable success, Snapchat’s concept still remains widely misunderstood (Sashittal et al, 2016). 

What are the features behind the Ghost that make it successful?

The chief strategy officer of Snapchat, Imran Khan once said in an interview: “If you still think Snapchat, a company valued $ 19 billion, is just a teen sexting app, you are not listening to the kids, bro”. Snapchat goes way beyond the borders of a simple app for sharing entertaining images and videos with friends.          

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost (source: Carr & LaPorte , 2015)

Its journey of becoming one of the major social media and news platforms started with the introduction of its first innovation in October 2014, i.e. “Live Stories”. This feature develops a narrative of shared experiences by putting together user-submitted snaps from prominent events and popular locations (Carr & LaPorte, 2015).The event that shaped the history of Snapchat’s “Live Stories” was the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) in 2015. Snapchat created a montage of the red-carpet event. It included back stage scenes and highlights from the VMA’s night provided by guests of the event and by six Snapchat team members, which thanks to the cooperation with MTV’s parent, Viacom, were able to shoot scenes of the night. The created video was constantly updating during the whole night and after 24 hours it dissolved as every other Live Story. As a result the video attracted 12 million viewers, which immensely surpassed the number of 5 million views of the MTV cable network that was even 40% less than in 2014. Hence, it was not surprising that brand advertisers as Taco Bell and Cover Girl bought the limited number of advertising slots during the 24 hours VMA’s Live Story. Viacom Sales Chief Jeff Lucas said: “With Snapchat, we’re putting our content into the pockets of 100 million millennials” and he added “Snapchat is targeted television on mobile” (Carr & LaPorte, 2015). Another successful event that further promoted Snapchat as a successful advertising platform was Super Bowl live story in 2016. Brands as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Amazon, Taco Bell and many others paid for ads throughout the Super Bowl 2016 Live Story. Amazon even created a call-to-action ad which encouraged users to come back for the second half and check out the updates on Snapchat: “See Baldwin’s snack stadium after halftime” (Cicero, 2016). 


Amazon ad on Snapchats’ Super Bowl 2016 Live story (source: Cicero, 2016)

Later on in January 2015 a new concept called “Discover” was released. It encompasses a network of media name-brand channels. In the new tool not only traditional channels as CNN, People, Comedy, Cosmopolitan, Central or ESPN, but also digital ones such as Vice produce a daily mix of exclusive professional content, which is available to view as „Live Stories“ only for 24 hours (Carr & LaPorte , 2015 & Holloway, 2015). In return for the daily video uploads the media brand partners receive a percentage of the ad money and in addition they gain the unique opportunity to approach Snapchat’s broad mobile-friendly audience (Halloway, 2015). “Discover” has introduced a completely new way of media communication and advertisement. It allows growth of Snapchat’s community and enlargement of its target audience. Moreover, the new way of delivering stories to the users offers greater and innovative opportunities for advanced target oriented advertising and marketing (Johnson, 2016). As it was stated in Los Angeles Times, 2016: “It’s nowhere close to popular among the over-35 crowd. But there are signs that’s changing. The raw numbers are small so far, but Snapchat use among older adults is growing fast”. Through “Discover” Snapchat offers something to all kinds of people – exclusive up to date content is available for those who want more than just a chatting feature (Johnson, 2016). 

Why should brands care about Snapchat? 

In the previous paragraphs not only the main concepts of Snapchat were presented, but also their potential for further growing success was examined through several examples and statistics. Therefore, it is necessary for brand managers to highlight the most important facts, which are accounted for Snapchats long-term importance as a social media advertising platform.                                    

First, Snapchat has as a goal to revive the media consumption.  The 24 – hours life of each video creates the need among users to keep updated with the new content on Snapchat (Carr & LaPorte, 2015). According to Danielle Mullin, VP of marketing for ABC Family: “you feel the need to actually read every single news. That’s the genius of Snapchat” (Carr & LaPorte, 2015). Another aspect, which makes Snapchat so unique is the fact that it is asking its users to take care about the channels instead of just following others’ content or personalities. 

Second, Snapchat is transforming the whole aesthetics of a mobile video. According to Snapchat the shows and ads with highest performance are those, which are shot vertically. However, it is proved that entire ads are viewed nine times more frequently than landscape-formed ones. This is based on the fact that users are able to watch the ads in upright position of their phones without any disruption for turning the phone to a widescreen mode. Hence, in general users are less willing to watch ads if this requires additional effort (Sloane, 2015 & Carr & LaPorte, 2015). As Troy Young, president of Hears Digital said: „Mobile phones are vertical devices. Turning it sideways is a lot of work” (Sloane, 2015).

Third, Snapchat represents an advertising pioneer. The reason why advertisers are willing to participate is because of its ability to attract the users’ full attention and to provoke variety of emotions while the several seconds full screen video is displayed. Such emotional relationship is hard to achieve by scrolling down the newsfeed in Facebook or Twitter (Carr & LaPorte, 2015). 

Fourth, Snapchat owns a mobile-app DNA, which is hard to copy, it is innovative and not afraid of change. The developers not only understand how the mobile technology functions, but they also understand the mind-set of the millennials. Taking into consideration the new advertising format and the variety of successful features as „Live Story“, „Snapcash“, and „Discover“ brand managers may need to pay attention to the new age of social media advertising through Snapchat (Sashittal et al, 2016). 


In conclusion, it is obvious that Snapchat has gained on popularity throughout the past five years since its foundation in 2011. It has been one of the most unprecedented and rapidly growing instant messaging services in history (Piwek & Joinson, 2016). From a simple mobile app for entertaining photographs exchange among millennials, it turned to be a storyteller by allowing users to put photos and videos together. It even extended further by developing a media channel network with its partners and provides its users with up to date extraordinary content. Snapchat represents a new age of social media advertising not only by rapidly responding to changes and providing innovations, but also by creating new ads’ formats (Carr & LaPorte, 2015). Based on the high innovation power, the wide audience reach and the continuously increasing statistical data, it can be concluded that brand managers need to consider Snapchat as a new powerful social media tool for advertising and marketing. It can be concluded that „There is a lot of uncertainty about what the future of news will look like. As of today, it looks like it might involve Snapchat“(Taylor, 2015).













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