Marketers Are Eager to Tap Into Snapchat’s Treasure Trove of Millennials

Even if they have to go around the messaging app to do it

Brands salivating over Snapchat as an engaging influencer marketing tool are all too often put off by costly campaigns and inconclusive results. But given the messaging app is insanely popular with millennials, agencies and brands are creating workarounds, or at the very least complementing Snapchat campaigns much as they did in the early days of Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

Snapchat hosts compilation videos shared from special events and locations via its Our, Live and Local Stories channels. There also are Discover channels with media companies like Vice and Comedy Central posting content. The app splits revenue with the media companies for ads on Discover channels, and those sponsorships can cost as much as $75,000 a day, say marketing execs. In other cases, brands like McDonald's cough up as much as $750,000 for daily official sponsorships.

The content and ads disappear within 24 hours, ready for fresh material. That element vexes a number of marketers. Moreover, marketers remain skeptical of Snapchat given there's no way to accurately direct ads to specific audiences and no easy way to figure out whether they actually worked.

One digital ad executive who recently saw Snapchat's sales pitch said, "It was not impressive because there's no way to target ads."

The ad exec said brands were interested in tapping influencers for campaigns instead of ads—that is, until Snapchat becomes more sophisticated. "If you're going to spend that kind of money, then you're going to put it toward something you already know works," he said.

Snapchat declined to comment for this story.

One brand that took the influencer route was headphone maker JBL. Its agency kirshenbaum bond senecal + partners commissioned social shop Delmondo to tap leading Snapchat influencers to share messages with their followers during the NBA All-Star Game weekend. Those types of campaigns cost as little as $50,000, generating hundreds of thousands of views, said Delmondo CEO Nick Cicero.

Cicero sees Delmondo's influencer network as complementary to a Snapchat campaign, and indeed, some of Snapchat's early sponsors hired these networks for an extra lift to official campaigns.

"We're not in the business of undercutting Snapchat," Cicero insisted. "Brands come to companies like us asking how to do stuff with influencers in conjunction with what they're already doing on Snapchat."

There are now a growing number of social agencies devoted to finding creative ways to measure the effectiveness of Snapchat influencer campaigns.

"Snapchat is very limited as far as the data it makes available," said Justin Rezvani, CEO of theAmplify, an Instagram-focused shop that recently branched out with Snapchat. "Our focus is to track sentiment and conversations on alternative platforms, like Instagram."

Rezvani said it's hard to measure basics like whether users are watching Snapchat videos all the way through. However, most signs point to Snapchat users being super engaged with the content. The Stories channels have attracted more than 1 billion views on active days, according to social shops contacted and figures reported by Snapchat.

The content is so transitive that consumers cherish it more, Cicero said. "There's nothing to compare it to, so in general advertisers are hesitant," he said. "But the ones that take advantage now obviously will be more successful. They understand the mindset shift."