Snapchat won the crown as the bright, shiny object at this year’s Cannes Lions advertising festival – even before the event launched. Not surprisingly, the platform made news at the festival by announcing Truffle Pig, a social content shop for large brands launched in partnership with advertising conglomerate WPP and the Daily Mail.
VentureBeat CEO Matt Marshall asked me to explain what the update means in a larger context. What we know is that Snapchat’s move is not a shot in the dark. It is part of a larger, accelerating trend in the advertising business. Marketers are hungry to capitalize on the unique characteristics and massive potential of consumer technology platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and now Snapchat. Why? Because they’re where people spend their time and conduct their lives. These platforms are especially adept at connecting with millennials, the first truly digitally native citizens who are difficult to reach in one place. As this demographic overtakes baby boomers as the largest living age segment, the pressure to advance the way we advertise will intensify.
These platforms also are powerful identity-based networks, enabling marketers to connect with with addressable, hyper-niche audiences. It now is possible for brands to reach millions of people who are broken into small interest groups, with relevant, personalized creative experiences served in specific sequence. This kind of advertising sophistication not only is possible but is also a reality consumers have come to expect. They’re also expecting their brand relationships to connect seamlessly across native platform environments, devices, networks, and media formats like video, imagery, and even long-form storytelling. People still value their privacy, but (especially younger consumers) are willing to share information for more relevance, meaning, and value.
This is a huge opportunity for the advertising industry. To take full advantage of it, marketers must overcome new challenges around emerging strategies, technology, and agility. Traditional spray-and-pray advertising methods, led by a costly upfront creative concept (often a 30-second TV spot), don’t translate well when copied and pasted across platforms. Months-long timelines for consumer insights from self-selected survey participants don’t help much, either. And an inability to adapt in real-time to planned world events and spontaneous opportunities makes a brand less relevant and less competitive.
In our experience managing hundreds of thousands of social advertising campaigns for leading consumer brands, the most successful brand advertisers that drive business results are ones that take an audience-first approach to their advertising. You have to bring together the right micro-audiences first, then develop and test continuously your creative and messaging sequences, and then scale the best creative against those key audiences.
Moreover, the best brand advertisers will execute this audience-first method quickly and at low cost, applying agile creative production that fits platform best practices and appeals to audience sensibilities. Rockstar advertisers will use audience insights generated from this rapid, accurate testing environment to improve overall brand messaging and creative, identify new audiences and market opportunities, and make better decisions across their entire marketing investment.
There are a few sophisticated advertisers who already use this audience-first approach in digital environments as a nerve center to direct creative and messaging investments across their entire marketing mix, including conventional television. From first-hand experience, this realization of the new world and expectation for doing business is driving a lot of the agency reviews happening right now among the few dozen largest global advertisers. This is a daunting proposition for legacy advertising businesses that are built around the inertia and economics of traditional television buys and beautiful 30-second spots.
And that is why marketers are eager to experiment with efforts like Facebook’s Publishing Garage and now Snapchat’s Truffle Pig. That’s why holding companies are interested in experimenting in creative and digital upstarts, which might be dead on arrival if embedded within their traditional advertising agencies. That’s why most of the consumer tech platforms are committed to supporting APIs and developer partners to advance their capabilities for advertisers. That’s why marketing partners, like my own firm, SocialCode, are investing in partnerships with advanced “data-first” creative agencies like Decoded Advertising.
The brand advertising world is shifting to digital-first and audience-first, and the fun has just begun.
Max Kalehoff is the CMO of SocialCode, a technology and insights company that manages digital advertising for consumer brands.