Why Snapchat Isn’t a Great Marketing Tool for Studios — Yet

Ouija” generated a lot of hype for being the first movie — make that any product — to appear as an ad on Snapchat. But despite all the buzz that was generated among marketers by Universal’s move to promote the thriller, is the social media platform really an effective way to reach younger moviegoers?

Depends on who you ask.

Universal is touting its 19-second “Ouija” video as a success, saying “we were very pleased with the Snapchat integration. Performance exceeded our expectations and generated millions of exposure impressions and views for the film to their daily user base,” said Doug Neil, Universal’s executive VP of digital marketing.

Neither Snapchat, or Universal, are releasing the actual numbers of just how many of the app’s 100 million monthly users actually chose to watch the video within the 24-hour period that it was available before disappearing from accounts. (See the video below).

While Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media platforms are experimenting with ads, Snapchat is a different animal.

Its app, which enables users to post videos and photos that are deleted within a day, is mostly used by teens and tweens — 71% of all Snapchat users are under the age of 25, and 70% were women, as of April, according to Business Intelligence. Among millennials 18-34, it was behind Facebook and Instagram in terms of usage.

Either way, Snapchat’s audience is a tough one to connect with.

“They’re going to get very frustrated if content is pushed at them,” cautions Selina Petosa, founder of the integrated digital agency Rational Interaction. Because videos on Snapchat don’t last long, hitting them with more for the same product could turn them off. “They have limited tolerance and attention spans,” Petosa said. “If you’re delivering the same message to them, it’s super annoying. They just want a fun experience.”

Snapchat users weren’t forced to watch the “Ouija” spot; they could choose whether to view the video or photos. But many of those who did were irritated by the promo that suddenly appeared on their accounts, though others voiced their approval.

Snapchat’s audience, which is made up mostly of middle schoolers to college students, may be opinionated, but they’re just not engaged with what shows up on their feeds as much as advertisers would like.

“You won’t get a middle schooler talking about how interesting or annoying (an ad) is,” Petosa said. “They’ll just ignore it. The industry talked a lot about (the ‘Ouija’ spot), but the target audience of millennials couldn’t have cared less.”

Instead, they do want a personalized experience.

If Apple’s debacle with instantly downloading U2’s new album to iTunes accounts proved anything, it’s that “if people don’t have a choice, all hell breaks loose,” Petosa said.

“People have the ability to create their own worlds, their own content, their own followers, their own favorites and things they want to engage with,” Petosa said. “The offer may be free, but you have to give people the ability to opt into it and take that free content. You can’t force it down their throats.”

It makes sense that Snapchat would want to find ways to generate revenue from advertising, but they’re backing into that business after they’ve built an engaged community, similar to other established social media platforms.

“Understandably, a lot of folks want to know why we’re introducing advertisements to our service,” Snapchat said in a blog post. “The answer is probably unsurprising – we need to make money. Advertising allows us to support our service while delivering neat content to Snapchatters.”

Yet Snapchat will be challenged with having to be more transparent in how many views its promos receive. And even if they do, Snapchat’s role will be limited.

While marketers believe Snapchat will become a new social channel that will play a more important role in future campaigns, its primary use will be to raise awareness. “That’s all we can expect it to be,” Petosa said.

Posts on other social media sites can ask users further engage with content — liking or sharing it, for example, the ability to comment or going to a link to which they can purchase tickets. Impressions and clickthroughs just aren’t enough for most campaigns these days.

The fact that “Ouija’s” Snapchat spot was a video in a videocentric site made sense. But its format will make it difficult to determine cost per clicks and the cost per impression that advertising want to know before agreeing to spend their digital dollars.

“The lack of understanding makes it really frustrating,” Petosa said.

Universal didn’t solely rely on Snapchat’s audience to build buzz for “Ouija.” It also produced a stunt with Thinkmodo that’s generated over million 1.9 million views on YouTube. Multichannel network Fullscreen also produced a stunt for YouTube with Kian Lawley, a member of YouTube supergroup O2L, that generated more than 5.6 million video views, 17.3 million hashtag impressions and 510,000 social engagements.

And Universal appears as if it’s succeeded in reaching its target audience.

“Ouija” won the weekend opening in the top spot at the box office with $20 million, with the PG-13 film attracting a crowd whose audience was 75% under the age of 25 and 61% female — exactly Snapchat’s sweet spot.

Still “the jury is out” whether Snapchat is an effective marketing platform, Petosa said, “as it is with social advertising in general. We’re watching it and all the commentary and opinions.”

But expect more experimentation.

“A lot of advertisers tend to jump on the latest shiny toy and make a lot of hype about it,” Petosa said.

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