Snapchat 3V Advertising: A New Era

James Rehwald
, Marketing Director

Snapchat Logo with Dollar Sign Eyes

Snapchat, as you might want to read up on from our previous Snapchat post, is a social media application for mobile devices that has picked up an enormous following the past few years.

Over the course of its running, Snapchat, Inc. (a company that has $15 billion valuation) has evolved into something much bigger than a zero-profit company that offers a simple, free media-capturing & sharing application to the public.  With Snapchat growing and looking to make money, advertising opportunities started springing up for companies that had the necessary capital.

Up until now, we’ve seen Snapchat make its mark in the advertising game through different types of advertising models: Brand Story, Live Story (previously “Our Story”), Discover, Geofilters, and Lenses.  With its unique vertical video presentation, Snapchat calls its collective ad model "3V Advertising."

Let me break it down for you:

[Last Updated: 9.9.2016]


Brand Story (Abandoned)

Looking at other popular social media platforms, it’s interesting to see how advertising has been implemented into their respective users’ interfaces.  For a while, Snapchat had no advertising until one day Snapchat placed an advertisement, paid by Universal, in the form of a movie trailer for Ouija.  Eventually, Snapchat tinkered with other Brand Story campaigns, including an exclusive premiere of a Madonna music video and a trailer for Dragon Age, a video game.

Ouija Snapchat Brand Story

Snapchat users didn’t react too favorably to this type of ad placement so Snapchat, Inc. responded by abandoning this advertising method and started exploring more native, less-invasive advertising.

(Read more from our blog: 9 Creative Ways to Market Your Brand with Snapchat)


Live Story

What was originally titled “Our Story,” is almost indefinitely Snapchat’s most innovative, unparalleled, and effective form of advertising.  The idea behind Live Story is truly revolutionary.  Live Story, similar to My Story (discussed in our previous post), is a publicly viewable collection of pictures/videos that last up to 24 hours after the time posted of each respective picture/video.

However, instead of this collection of posted media coming from a single user as in My Story, the media posted to a Live Story is crowdsourced—in other words, the pictures/videos are submitted from a collection of users in the specific area, usually having to do with an event/occasion.

Users geographically located at a Live Story location are given the option on their mobile device’s Snapchat interface to send their Snaps to [Live Story name].

(Note that some of the following images are slightly outdated due to Snapchat's recent interface redesign)

Snapchat Live Story, Seattle

Snapchat content curators pick and choose from the collection of user-submitted digital media before posting it to the public Live Story feed.  This way, the Live Story gets the best quality media to represent the event to the world.

For example, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was a featured Snapchat Live Story, paid for by Macy’s.  The Live Story appeared worldwide to Snapchat users at the top of their “My Friends” list.  Snapchat users, upon clicking the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” icon, got to see hundreds of seconds (usually ranging from 2 to 5 minutes total) of quality videos and pictures captured by users attending the event, giving the “ad” an organic feel and first-person perspective into the collective experience.

Snapchat World Cup Live Story

Live Stories, paid for by their respective advertisers, have diversified into several different events such as Black Friday, Coachella, EDC Las Vegas, the World Cup, MLB Wednesdays, Fashion Week in NYC, the 2016 Presidential Campaign, and the Grammys.  Each of these crowdsourced feeds lasted 24 hours for the Snapchat world to see at their own expense with the simple tap of a thumb.

With a true stroke of innovation, Snapchat not only created a new type of valuable advertising medium, but outsourced the content creation to its own users in an easy-to-do, enjoyable, and quality-productive way.  They made advertising, in the guise of simply sharing media, fun for users.

On top of the Live Story itself as an ad, Snapchat also implemented skippable 5 to 10-second video ads inter-spliced between the Snaps of a specific Live Story (some ads now offer a "swipe up" option to read or watch more).  These 5 to 10-second ads, now called "Snap Ads," are often advertising paid for by a company/brand that is a different entity from the respective Live Story’s brand/company, such as a soda drink ad displayed between the Snaps of a holiday event.  Nevertheless, some advertisers drop the extra dollar to have their own 5 to 10-second ads for their own company/brand among footage for their own Live Story event...

Ad within an ad? Adception!

Eventually, Snapchat expanded these Live Story feeds by giving the Snapchat community occasional feeds that weren’t even paid for by any advertisers.  For instance, in the wake of the tragic Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, Snapchat made a genuine move by creating a Live Story, titled “Je Suis Charlie,” dedicated to the recent deaths while unifying the shaken French population.  The Live Story included an array of footage showing French and non-French people speaking in solidarity against the act of terror while instilling positive hope in viewers alike.

Other examples of non-profit Live Stories include lifestyle-focused feeds from places of different cultures such as Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Berlin, Dubai, Jamaica, Hawaii, and plenty, plenty more.  While Snapchat doesn’t make money off of these Live Story feeds (unless there are 5 to 10-second ads), it gives something users to be excited about and adds value to the Snapchat experience and brand.

Snapchat Stories Example



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Discover, also discussed in our previous post, is another innovative Snapchat feature that after a number of modifications, has been integrated much better into the rest of the whole Snapchat experience.  Snapchat partnered with Buzzfeed, iHeartRadio, Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan, Comedy Central, ESPN, CNN, People, Food Network, VICE, and National Geographic (and previously Warner Music Group and Yahoo News but dropped them) so that these publishers can update their individual content pieces as fast as every 24 hours for the whole Snapchat community to see and share with other users.

- UPDATE (8/26/15): Snapchat also partnered with IGN, Mashable, and Tastemade and added them as Discover publishers available for Snapchatters to view/share content from.
- UPDATE (10/12/15): Snapchat partnered with Refinery29 as another new Discover publisher.
- UPDATE (11/16/15): Snapchat partnered with Sweet as new Discover publisher.
- UPDATE (11/23/15): Snapchat partnered with Vox as new Discover publisher.
- UPDATE (11/27/15): Snapchat partnered with Sony Pictures to make a new (temporary) Discover channel to promote the 007 movie, "Spectre," making it the first brand to purchase its own Snapchat Discover channel.
- UPDATE (11/27/15): Snapchat partnered with Brit + Co as new (reoccurring) Discover publisher for the holiday season.
- UPDATE (12/6/15): Snapchat partnered with Fusion as new Discover publisher
- UPDATE (1/6/16): Snapchat partnered with The Wall Street Journal as a new Discover publisher.
- UPDATE (1/28/16): Snapchat created its own (reoccurring) channel labeled "Good Day America" providing coverage and info regarding politics & the US presidential elections.
- UPDATE (2/9/16): Snapchat partnered with Viacom as a new Discover publisher to create an MTV Discover channel.
- UPDATE (3/14/16): Snapchat partnered with NowThis as new Discover publisher.
- UPDATE (4/23/16): Snapchat teamed up with NYC's Tribeca Film Festival to showcase the 10 winners for "the best Snapchat Stories across the U.S."
- UPDATE (7/15/16): Snapchat teamed up with U.K.-based media company Vertical Networks to launch "Brother" as a new Discover channel.
- UPDATE (8/20/16): Snapchat teamed up with NBCUniversal to create (temporary) Discover channel for TV show, "The Voice."
- UPDATE (9/6/16): Snapchat partnered with Vogue to create new Discover channel with publications every Tuesday and Friday.
- UPDATE (9/8/16): Snapchat partnered with E! News to create a Discover channel covering weekly celebrity news called "The Rundown."
- UPDATE (9/22/16): Snapchat partnered with Complex to create new Discover channel featuring daily content.

Snapchat Discover ESPN

Advertising comes into Discover in different forms.  One form is 5 to 10-second videos (just like the ones in some Live Stories and after Snapchat's recent June 2016 update, these ads are also found in between your friends' My Stories) that are inter-spliced between the interactive/animated/scrollable news pieces while the other form is a banner alongside the news content or opening page, like something you’d see while browsing a website.  Companies that have implemented this method of advertising their brands include BMW, McDonald’s, T-Mobile, Liongate, Hewlett-Packard, and countless others.

It's also worth knowing that Snapchat has also experimented with e-commerce and app installs via Discover's inter-spliced ads.

Companies/brands such as Sony Pictures, Vanity Fair, Warner Bros, Burberry, Seventeen, and National Geographic have even purchased their very own temporary (24-hour) Discover channels with customized (not crowdsourced) content.  This form of Discover advertising appears to be more costly and less frequent.

Snapchat Discover, National Geographic Earth Day, Seventeen 17 Prom



And alas, we have Geofilters!

What started off as a fun way for people to add a filter to their Snaps to showcase where they are located, soon turned into another opportunity for Snapchat and advertisers.

The concept behind advertising via Geofilters is that advertisers can pay to have a Geofilter available to users at a specified location for a specified length of time.  McDonald’s was the first to jump onto this type of Snapchat advertising: users at or nearby McDonalds establishments in the U.S. got the opportunity to add a fun Geofilter (check out the image below) to their Snaps with an easy swipe of the finger.  Other companies that have used this type of advertising include Nike, GE, Starbucks, various movie producing companies, and plenty of others.

Snapchat Geofilter McDonald's

- UPDATE (2/22/16): Snapchat, Inc. introduced a new website tool called On-demand Geofilters to the public.  This feature streamlined the custom Geofilter ad application process by allowing web users to upload their very own Geofilter design for approval.  Users/brands can select the date & time range for the Geofilter's availability and can also select the "Geofenced" area on a Google world map.  This brings in accessible creative opportunity to advertise events, businesses, personal occasions, etc.

On-demand Geofilter pricing is more affordable but depends on the location size and duration length.  An average office space for a night can go as cheap as $5!

- UPDATE (8/30/16): Snapchat, Inc. rolled out a new online design tool for On-demand Geofilters.  For those who do not have access to or knowledge of graphic design, this tool allows you to select from thematic templates, such as for weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations.



(check our more recent blog post about Snapchat's Sponsored Lens, also called "Geolenses")

Snapchat Lens Malibu, 3V Advertising


The Cost and Reward

So first off, who are the Snapchat users, anyways?  And how do advertisers know who they’re targeting among the 100 million daily active Snapchatters?  At the end of June 2015, Snapchat spruced up its 3V advertising webpage with lots of audience-related data, compelling visuals, and uploaded a video with the CEO Evan Spiegel’s pitch to advertisers.  He also goes into detail about how full-screen vertical video on mobile devices is a growing trend to take advantage of, hence the name of their Snapchat advertising model, Snapchat 3V (vertical video views) Advertising.

Snapchat users are mostly millennials.  There are over 8 billion video views everyday on Snapchat and the popularity of the app has been steadily growing.  The Live Story for Coachella, for instance, attracted more than 40 million unique viewers.  Advertisers can target Snapchat users through options such as geographic location, age, gender, and by publisher category in the Discover feature.

Snapchat 3V Advertising Audience Age Statistics 2016

Location-based advertising, for example, can be seen in Geofilter ads or even certain Live Stories, which can be purchased at a smaller price in exchange for the Live Story feed’s visibility becoming limited to people in a certain location, such as a specific city or establishment.  Gender and age are entered into the system when a user makes his/her profile—Snapchat can use that information to help advertisers target their audiences more accurately.  As for the Discover feature, audience types are associated with certain publishers so advertisers look at the publishers' content and other 5 to 10-second ad placements for understanding what kind of audience they’re looking at.  For example, a cosmetics company might want to promote its product in between content pieces from Cosmopolitan, a publisher with a mostly female audience.

- UPDATE (2/25/16): Snapchat closes deal with media-measurement giant Nielsen to provide better, more precise data for advertisers.

Secondly, there’s the price.  Just looking at these big company names, you could infer the necessary capital for acquiring most of these 3V advertising placements.  This might just change for the better however, as I’ll talk about in a bit.  Live Stories and 10-second ads were originally said to have cost $400,000-500,000 and $100,000, respectively.  Later on, Snapchat revealed that its pricing strategy would entail a charge of two cents per view for hosting a public 10-second ad for 24 hours.  To put that into large-scale viewing perspective, that's $400,000 per 20 million views.  Apart from that, it appears the cost of Live Story's interspliced ads, Discover's interspliced ads, Geofilters, and Lens ads are dependent on factors such as location and duration.

To negotiate an ad deal with Snapchat, you need to make an online inquiry to advertise your brand.

Even with the compelling data that the Snapchat website posted, the overall effectiveness of these ads is still hard to measure very precisely, as is with a lot of advertising forms.  Nevertheless, these 3V ads must be doing something extraordinary if companies are going to drop the extra $ for one or more of the different Snapchat ad varieties.  Using Snapchat advertising as part of you marketing mix is something to highly consider if the ad type and audience reach aligns with your company’s marketing goals to which the high cost can be accounted for.

- UPDATE (5/23/16): L2's Snapchat advertising data shows us which brands & industry types have bought into Snapchat the most as well as providing Snapchat ads' estimated costs, viewership, and number of channels.
- UPDATE (6/13/16): Snapchat will introduce updates including ads API, expandable Snap ads, Snapchat partners, and more.
- UPDATE (9/13/16): Snapchat adopts Facebook-like ad targeting capability by allowing brands to market Snap Ads based on user device, email, and content history.  The three categories of ad targeting options are labeled as "Snap Audience Match," "Lookalikes," and "Snapchat Lifestyle Categories."


The Future of Snapchat Advertising and You

It’s remarkable to think that Snapchat had zero advertising and made zero revenue at some point but ultimately started to incorporate high revenue-earning native ads that work towards Snapchat and advertisers’ goals without being too intrusive/annoying to Snapchatters.

Although right now the ad prices are high and the locations are usually limited to largely populated places full of Snapchatters, it’ll be interesting to see if and when Snapchat starts to break it down into smaller communities and businesses.

(More from our blog: 7 Predictions of Snapchat's Future)

We may just see Snapchat start selecting neighborhoods, towns, and cities for Live Story feeds available to be viewed only by people in/nearby those places—they've already done this with certain college campuses and other occasions.  With this scenario rolling out, more localized ad targeting may become available such that smaller businesses might have more affordable options for ad placement via Snapchat (e.g. Live Story of local street fair, concert, election, etc).

Another interesting thought is that Snapchat will likely be expanding its media source partnerships beyond its current 24 partners in the future.  Snapchat could even partner with smaller media/publishing companies to market to smaller communities as well (e.g. The Oregonian as a Portland-exclusive Snapchat partner + OMSI ads interspliced between Snaps).

It’ll take some more time for Snapchatters to populate these areas for these smaller business opportunities to become feasible for quality crowdsourcing…after all, Snapchatters are the ones actually out there creating the Live Story advertising content—the Snapchat team just picks the cream of the crop.


- Using Snapchat 3V Advertising is just one of the numerous platforms you can use to advertise to your target mobile audience.
- A responsive website can serve your marketing needs as well.  Want to learn how we can help you?  Contact us today!


Read more from our Blog:
5 Digital Marketing Essentials to Grow Your Business
Users Promoting Your Brand: Companies Doing It Right
11 Key Tips to Increase Engagement on Your Facebook Page
9 Creative Snapchat Ideas for Marketing Your Brand in 2016


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