At the top of several agency and advertiser executives' lists of media companies that are leading the disruption of content distribution and advertising business models, along with YouTube, Facebook, Buzzfeed, Netflix and Amazon, is Snapchat, according to a new study released to its members by MyersBizNet. Snapchat ranks first among 35 leading TV entertainment networks and digital video media for "engaging content justifies premium pricing" among the 515 agency and advertiser executives surveyed by MyersBizNet. Snapchat ranks third overall based on eight attributes of value and performance. Like Netflix, Snapchat is both a problem for media competitors who are vying for marketers' ad budgets, and also a solution. With parent company SNAP’s (NYSE $SNAP) public offering on the near-term horizon, its role, along with Instagram Stories, defines how Gen Z and younger Millennials prioritize their social networking, with their ten second Snapchat videos and stories that capture every intimate detail of their lives in real-time. It’s also providing media with an innovative platform for marketing TV series and events, film releases and magazines.
According to one study, about 150 million people now view about 10 billion Snapchat videos each day - a number that is expected to increase to 18 billion by May, with a reported $25 to $30 billion public offering potentially fueling the company's visibility and coffers as early as April. With more than 200 million people now using ad blockers, it's not insignificant that Snapchat ads are viewed between 500,000 and a million times per day. Here are a few media and entertainment marketers that are breaking new grounds in defining what "promotion" will increasingly look like in 2017.
Starz and Ash vs. Evil Dead
Based on the cult-classic film series starring legendary character actor Bruce Campbell, Ash vs. Evil Dead was fighting something of an uphill battle from the moment in launched in 2015. For starters, it was on a premium cable network -- Starz -- with limited distribution. Secondly, the last "official" film in the series -- Army of Darkness -- came out all the way back in 1993. The first season of the show premiered to excellent reviews but low ratings, so Starz knew that when season two rolled around they needed to do something special to raise as much awareness as possible among its target demographic.
Enter: Snapchat. In addition to launching its own Snapchat account for the program, Starz also made excellent use of the fastest-growing social media network by creating its own custom Snapchat Lens timed to launch alongside the second season premier. Snapchat users could take a picture of themselves, turn their own face into one of the "Deadites" that Ash battles on the show every week, and send the spooky image out to all their friends. People who were aware of the show got to show their love, while people who weren't aware got a fun Snapchat lens to use - everybody wins. The best part is that the lens was available to everyone, creating an instant level of awareness and market penetration overnight. Ash vs. Evil Dead has been renewed for another season by Starz.
The New York Times
As one of America's most respected newspapers, The New York Times has always had something of a demographic problem. For starters, they write to one of the highest reading levels for a major newspaper in the country - which does nothing to help their "hands off, elitist" image (that may or may not be rightfully deserved, depending on who you ask). Secondly, young people are reading fewer newspapers and those who are interested in news are even less willing to pay for it, a fact that does nothing to help The Times' subscriber numbers, although subscription revenues now represent 60% of the company's revenues and subscriptions are on the upswing for the first time in decades. To help spur this reversal, The New York Times turned to Snapchat to great effect.
In addition to a larger channel for the paper itself, individual Times' writers and editors have their own Snapchat accounts. They regularly post stories about the pieces they're working on as they're being written, bringing an entirely new generation into the process of "breaking news" first hand. It's a great way to showcase Times staff members as "real people," and also helps outline exactly why they're making the journalistic decisions they're making. A distant editorial process has been turned it into a much more hands-on, intimate experience -- in a way that is particularly appealing to the younger generation to whom The New York Times needs to be introduced.
The Academy Awards
Another Snapchat promotional application is live backstage coverage of live events. One of the most significant examples of this is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Film aficionados can tune into their local ABC-TV affiliate and watch the ceremony live in real-time and during the commercial breaks, they can pick up their mobile device and turn to Snapchat to see what is going on when the cameras aren't rolling. When those Snapchat stories end, they're back to the TV screens -- rinse and repeat all night. It's both commercial avoidance and audience activation at the same time.
Although Zoolander 2 didn't exactly light the box office on fire, it did run one of the most effective and organic social marketing campaigns of any movie in recent history. To do so, the team behind the campaign relied heavily on exclusive content that users weren't going to find anywhere else -- even on Facebook or Twitter. To coincide with the release of the film, for example, the official Snapchat account for the film had footage of stars Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in character at Fashion Week in Paris. They not only provided backstage insight into an exclusive event, but the Snapchat stories were executed as if they were actual scenes from the film - providing a more interactive experience with both the event and the movie at the same time.
Up until now, all of the examples mentioned have been ones that you essentially had to know existed before you turned to Snapchat in order to find them. The Ash vs. Evil Dead example may be an exception, but if you weren't paying attention you may have thought it was just a fun Snapchat Lens and not a marketing tool at all.
Snapchat Discover has recently become one of THE most effective ways for media companies to use Snapchat for promotion. The "Discover" section of a user's feed is positioned right alongside all of the stories of their actual Snapchat friends, making it easy to discover new content. Currently there are feeds for CNN, Mashable, MTV, the NFL and more - all paired with relevant headlines that promote a single story.
MTV's section comes with the headline "9 Hit Songs Written by Someone Unexpected." This isn't necessarily anything I care about, but Mashable's headline -- "Worst iPhone Update Ever" -- catches my attention. I'm not necessarily a daily visitor of Mashable and I don't even necessarily agree with the headline as an iPhone user myself, but suddenly I'm curious. I can tap on the feed, instantly get more information, and make my own decision -- all without leaving Snapchat and heading to Mashable.com. Of course, as Medium has discovered, the ad revenue model and return for Mashable is questionable. And the actual R-O-I for Snapchat may ultimately prove to be fleeting as well.
It's inevitable that new socially advanced content platforms will emerge, as Instagram Stories demonstrates, and others will quickly become outdated and disappear. As advertisers seek alternatives to offset the Google and Facebook duopoly, Snapchat is their current favorite, based on the MyersBizNet survey and recent interviews with agency leaders. The platform is uniquely positioned to define the word "frenemy," as Snapchat's role evolves both as a competitor for audiences and advertisers, and as a promotional tool for entertainment and news.
Photo Credit: Starz