The Age of Snapchat

Just when we're ready to declare that we're officially in the Post-Social Era of digital, a new platform comes along promising brands a chance to capture headlines, Millennials and Cannes Lions. Often the price of being a the brand innovating on new platforms is trading transparency, functionality and overall buying sophistication for the cred of being the first CMO to "hack it".

Obviously part of being an alpha or beta partner is working through kinks, bugs and limitations to make the product better. However, as time passes the bigger question is: when do you start to demand the basics? We can all (hopefully) agree it's absolutely egregious that there are billions of dollars pouring into the Facebook marketing platform, yet they don't support third party serving and pixels as a way for advertisers to have independent measurement or campaign reporting.

Take a minute to name any website online that you would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars with for video ads with the stipulation that they had to be site served and you weren't allowed to pixel ANYTHING. Go ahead. We'll wait.

And as everyone is quick to shit talk Facebook (which, by the way, you spent your money with them, making you at least negligent and at most complicit) history is quickly repeating itself with Snapchat. We mean, Snap, Inc.

From the beginning Snapchat has been infamous for its sheer absurdity. Prices for ads were unknown but rumored to be in the millions and for a while the only targeting available was gender and DMA. About six months after gouging advertisers for a go at the platform, Snapchat finally partnered with Millward Brown to release an aggregated study of all the advertising on the platform to date. Which was probably great for selling the platform, but not too useful to brands who had just spent a few million to experiment with their offering.

Perhaps because Snapchat started off by telling everyone "no", we quietly watched as the industry foamed at the mouth when Snapchat released things like bundled audiences (contextual targeting circa 2005), the ability to report video completions and age and device targeting. We would argue that these are things that should have been in place before year 2 of selling ads, but Snapchat was able to maintain buzz, interest and a high run rate while offering almost nothing in return. And it seems likely that everyone will roll over when they change the rules in the middle of the game because there's not really anything else you can do about it (aside from spending your budget or sharing your content elsewhere, of course).

And though the title of this post insinuates otherwise, this isn't really about Snapchat. Or Facebook. Or walled gardens. Or agency rebates. Or shady ad tech scams. This is about us as brands, marketers, agencies, sellers and users demanding more accountability. Taking time to ask tough questions of our partners and not accepting absurd responses. We all like to complain how much company X, agency Y, platform Z and the internet overall sucks. So when are we going to make it better? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

We do hope to cop a pair of those glasses, tho.

Holler at us Snap, Inc.