Snapchat Ads: The Complete Guide for Business

By Christina Newberry


Image via Christian Sterk under CC0 1.0

With more than 166 million daily active users watching 10 billion videos per day, Snapchat has a highly engaged audience that’s simply too big to ignore.

In this complete guide to Snapchat advertising, we’ll look at some key ways to use Snapchat ads to connect with fans and build your brand on this powerful network

Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals the steps to create custom Snapchat geofilters and lenses, plus tips on how to use them to promote your business.

Why advertise on Snapchat?

Snapchat is a particularly important platform for brands whose target market aligns with Snapchat’s core demographics.

Consultancy Millward Brown found that 88 percent of the users who saw Snapchat ads from a campaign for men’s deodorant fit into the target 13- to 34-year-old demographic. That should come as no surprise as 86 percent of U.S. Snapchat users fall into that age category. The network reaches 41 percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the United States every single day.

And research conducted by MediaScience found that Snapchat video ads delivered more than two times the lift in purchase intent compared with TV and other popular social platforms.

The various Snapchat ad formats allow brands to place their messaging in Discover content or in between Snapchat Stories. (If you’re not sure of the difference, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Snapchat.) Interactive options like Sponsored Lenses and Geofilters become a seamless part of the Snapchat user experience, encouraging users to share branded content with their friends, and even across other social channels.

If your ads have a great audio track, there’s one additional reason to advertise on this particular network: 60 percent of video ads on Snapchat are watched with the sound on. That’s an especially impressive figure when you consider that 85 percent of videos on Facebook are watched on mute.

Types of Snapchat ads

Snap Ads

A Snap Ad is a (maximum) 10-second video ad that includes the option to provide more information to users who swipe up from the ad.

The additional information can be more in-depth content, such as longer videos (up to 10 minutes) or articles. Or it can be used as a way for Snapchatters to interact with your brand (or even buy) directly via an app install page or mobile website that users access without leaving the Snapchat app.

Snap ads can appear in between Stories from a user’s friends, or within premium content that appears within Discover, including Our Stories, Publisher Stories and Shows.

Snapchat also offers “sequenced messaging,” a bundle of 10-second Snapchat ad video segments that run back-to-back within Discover to mimic a longer video.

Sponsored Lenses

From puppy dog ears to rainbow barf, Lenses are a big part of what makes Snapchat so fun. And one-third of Snapchat’s daily users play with Lenses every day.
Sponsored Lenses show up alongside all the other Lenses in the menu, making it easy for users to share and post with.

Sponsored Geofilters

A Geofilter is a graphic overlay that Snapchatters can place on their Snaps. As the name implies, Geofilters are usually tied to a specific geographic location, ranging from individual store to an entire country.

On average, Snapchatters view 1 billion filters every day, and a national Sponsored Geofilter typically reaches 40 to 60 percent of Snapchatters in the United States. That’s a lot of opportunities to reach your audience.

On-Demand Geofilters

On-Demand Geofilters are the entry-level Snapchat ads option, allowing any business to get started with Snapchat advertising for as little as $5.

They’re just like Sponsored Geofilters, but available for areas as small as half a city block and time commitments as short as one hour—perfect for a small business or a special event.

Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals the steps to create custom Snapchat geofilters and lenses, plus tips on how to use them to promote your business.

Snap to Unlock

This Snapchat ad uses Snapcodes on physical media such as billboards, receipts, and even coffee cups to entice users to interact with brands by accessing “secret” features within the app. Taking a picture of the Snapcode or scanning it with the Snapchat app unlocks a Sponsored Geofilter or Lens for a set period of time.

How to advertise on Snapchat

Self-serve Snapchat ads

On-demand Geofilters

For this advertising option, you can upload a custom Geofilter, or use Snapchat’s templates to create one in only a few clicks.

For detailed step-by-step instructions, see our post How to Create a Custom Geofilter on Snapchat.

Cost: On-demand Geofilter Snapchat ads cost as little as $5, with the price increasing based on how much territory you include and how long you make the Geofilter available. We found that a two-day Geofilter cost about $13 if we restricted it to the immediate area around our office, $45 if we expanded it to our full city block, and nearly $3,000 if we expanded the area to the maximum 5 million square feet (about 70 city blocks).

Bonus: Cities, universities, and other public locations can create free community Geofilters. Brand logos are not allowed, but this is a great opportunity for cities to highlight the work of local artists.

Take a look at this Geofilter in Houston created by local graffiti artist Gonzo247 (notably share on social media by DJ Khaled).

Snapchat Ads Manager

Of course, on-demand Geofilters are no longer the only self-serve option for brands. In June 2017, the social app launched a new platform that allows businesses to buy video Snap ads without going through Snapchat or one of its ads partners.

The new Ad Manager allows Snap advertisers to create, optimize, and manage campaigns. It offers the option to choose an objective, maintain a creative library and edit target audiences, among other features.

Ad Manager is much more accessible than previous advertising options on the platform (apart from on-demand Geofilters). Businesses simply have to sign up to use Ad Manager and the tool itself is free to use (apart from any advertising costs, of course). The tool also offers the ability to pay with a credit card.

And there’s more in the form of three additional new tools for advertisers. The mobile dashboard lets advertisers preview ads, track performance, edit and pause campaigns, and receive notifications about key metrics.

Business Manager, on the other hand, lets brands configure roles and permissions for ad team members, manage different accounts, and change billing contacts.

How to create an ad using Snapchat ads manager

Step 1. Create a new campaign

To get started on your ad campaign, open the Dashboard view in Ad Manager and click + New Campaign.

If you know what your social media goals are, you can choose the relevant campaign objective.

Next, under Schedule, enter a start and end date and fill in your campaign name. When you’re finished, click Next.

Step 2. Target your audience and specify an ad budget

This is where the audience targeting begins.

Under Geography, enter an ad set name, and choose the locations you want to target. Keep in mind that while you can select multiple cities, you have to stick to one country per ad set.

Under Demographics, enter the ages and genders of the audience you want to reach. This is where you can also target users who speak specific languages, chosen from a drop-down menu. If you’re running ads from North America, you get access to DLX Advanced Demographics with specific targeting options like income or even “Moms.”

Under Audiences, a drop-down menu lets you choose from Snapchat’s predefined audiences options: Lifestyles, Shoppers, Viewers, and Visitors.

You can also choose from the custom audiences option. This is targeting based on your Snapchat customer lists or groups that are similar to your Snapchat customers.

Under Placements, you can choose whether you want your ad in All Snapchat (i.e. between friends’ stories) or in Content Placement—Snapchat’s curated content (i.e. Snapchat’s stories, Publisher’s stories, and Shows).

Continue filling the rest of the information for your ad—like which devices to target and budget and goals, where the daily budget is a minimum of $100 and you can select goals to optimize for, such as app installs.

You can then indicate when your ad set will start and finish (or run indefinitely). Once you’re done that, enter a name for your ad set and click Next.

Step 3. Create your ad

To design your ad creative, click + New Creative. Getting your ad creative ready is a two-step process. First, choose from one of four ad types:

Once you’re done, click Next to be taken to the Create your Snap Ad page.

Fill in all required fields, such as your brand name, a catchy headline, and a call-to-action. Then upload your ad by clicking the Upload button or drag your video to the Upload Your Top Snap area on the right.

If you don’t have a media file that fits Snapchat’s ad specs, you can use Snapchat’s video editing tool, Snap Publisher. To do this, click on Create and you’ll be redirected to Snap Publisher.

With Snap Publisher, you can work with ad templates for each goal: drive installs, drive traffic, drive views, and drive awareness.

Once all required information has been filled for your ad type, click Publish.

On the next page, click Launch Campaign to submit your ad campaign for review by Snapchat.

Step 4. Check your ad’s performance

Once Snapchat approves of your ad set and it’s out there for the world to see— it’s also time to measure your ad’s performance.

You can view performance metrics on the Snapchat Ad Manager dashboard or in the app’s mobile dashboard.

Here are the metrics you’ll find:

To learn about some of Snapchat’s more unique metrics, here’s a handy metrics glossary.

You can also export any data you want—choose your metrics, the duration, and export the results as a CSV or PDF file. This can be handy for proving the ROI of your campaign.

To access these metrics on the Snapchat app, tap on Snap Ads and select your company account. For now, you won’t be able to create ads from the app itself, but you will have analytics in your pocket.

Snapchat ads placed through Snapchat or a Partner

If your approach to advertising is a bit less DIY and a bit more leave-it-to-the-professionals, Snapchat has advertising options for you too. There are two primary methods to choose from.

1. Work directly with Snapchat

When you work directly with Snapchat to create ads, you get access to the same creative team that designs the brand’s consumer products. You can connect with Snapchat’s ad team on their website.

2. Work with Snapchat Partners

Snapchat works with two types of partners, both of which can help brands develop Snapchat ads and place them on the network. Ads Partners develop Sponsored Geofilters and Lenses, while Creative Partners develop ad campaigns. Snapchat also has a few select Certified Partners who have received additional training and take precedence in referrals.

Cost: They aren’t cheap. Adweek reported that Sponsored Lenses cost between $600,000 and $750,000 per day in the summer of 2016. The average price has since dropped to around $330,000. Meanwhile, Snap Ads video offering range from about $40 to $60 per thousand impressions—on par with a TV ad. AdAge reported that Snapchat also recently introduced “goal-based bidding,” where advertisers can pay per swipe rather than just per view.

Snapchat ad targeting

Snapchat offers over 300 preset audiences, based on things like what Snapchatters care about, buy, and watch as well as where they go.

Advertisers can break audiences down further by age, location, device, household income, parental status, and more.

In addition to targeting by age (for instance, to ensure 13-year-olds don’t see beer ads), Snapchat also offers comprehensive targeting options:

These targeting options are available for Snap Ads. This includes those created using the self-serve Ad Manager tool as well as ones purchased through Snapchat or its partners. Geofilters can be targeted by geographic area (“geofence”) only.

Snapchat has also partnered with Oracle Data Cloud to target Snapchat ads using Oracle’s approximately 100 audience segments based on purchasing behaviors both on- and offline.

Snapchat ad tips and examples

Snapchat is a highly engaging, vertical format which means that ads created for this platform may differ somewhat from those your business runs on other social networks.

As with anything, be sure to test, test, test to find out works best for your audience. Play with things like timing, ad type, and video format. Don’t be afraid to try live vs. animated videos, GIF-style clips, stills, or even cinemagraphs.

Make the content fun and interactive

Snapchat is an interactive medium, where users are accustomed to engaging with filters and Lenses to create fun, shareable Snaps. Snapchat ads that embrace this playful feel give your creative the best chance of resonating with Snapchatters.

When Universal Studios brought its launch campaign for The Secret life of Pets to Snapchat, the studio created a Snap Ad that allowed users to swipe up to create a Petmoji using a movie-branded tool. Snapchatters spent an average of 72 seconds interacting with the movie’s content and characters through the ad and the Petmoji creation tool.

Gatorade took things even further to create an old-school 8-bit game featuring Serena Williams as she worked towards her record 23rd Grand Slam win. Snapchatters accessed the game by swiping up on a Snap Ad and spent an average of more than three minutes (196 seconds, to be precise) interacting with the game.

Go for highly shareable filters and lenses

Give Snapchatters the chance to create a fun, souped-up selfie with a Sponsored Lens, and chances are they’ll post it to their Story and maybe even share it to other social networks, like Twitter or Instagram. That means they’re doing your Snapchat advertising work for you, expanding the reach of your branded content while encouraging friends and followers to seek out your Snapchat account so they can play with the Lens themselves.

When 20th Century Fox launched X-Men: Apocalypse, they replaced all the Snapchat Lenses for a day with X-Men Lenses that let Snapchatters turn themselves into X-Men characters. Users spent an average of 109 seconds playing with the Lenses.

Kraft added a fun twist to its Sponsored Lens by adding a score count tallying how many falling macaroni noodles users could virtually catch in their mouths while using the Lens. Since everyone likes to show off a high score, it was a natural way to boost shares. Snapchatters spent an average of 20 seconds playing with the Lens, which reached nearly 20 million users in 24 hours.

Keep it short and snappy to hook viewers quickly

While Snapchat’s video ads can be up to 10 seconds each, the app itself recommends keeping duration closer to the five or six second mark. The company also suggests providing an offer message within the second or third second of the ad’s runtime.

With these shorter timeframes in mind, Snapchat also recommends establishing a “brand moment” before the two-second mark to maximize awareness. But they caution against opening ads with a solid frame featuring a logo or product shot. Instead, it’s best to open ads with dynamic footage to catch viewer attention right from the get-go.

If you’re not sure you’re ready to commit your advertising budget to Snapchat, but you want to start marketing on the network, check out our posts on the basic and advanced tactics of Snapchat marketing for some organic Snapchat marketing ideas.

Hootsuite’s on Snapchat! Click this link on mobile to go directly to Hootsuite’s profile or scan the Snapcode below to add Hootsuite as a Friend on Snapchat.

With files from Kendall Walters and Kaylynn Chong.