Ghost in the Machine

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It’s Halloween and the ghosts are out – or at least one ghost in particular. While we weren’t looking, messaging app, Snapchat has become an entertainment industry darling and is coming into its own as a brand building powerhouse. The platform boasts more than 4 billion daily video views, a figure that has doubled since June and now matches Facebook’s scale. And all this despite Snapchat having one-tenth of Facebook’s daily user base. The company has claimed that more people watch college football on Snapchat than on traditional TV.

Apart from feeds from friends, the app offers content in the form of Live Stories, a blend of curated and original content and Discover, a network of channels. Live Stories hasn’t been shy about telling an audience what to watch. The company actively creates a line up of content around events and cultural trends, whether it’s Coachella or Ramadan. The result is engaging stories attracting millions of viewers.

Discover is a more recent addition with a network of name-brand channels. (Yes, just like old-school TV).  Channels include the likes of Comedy Central and ESPN as well as digital stalwarts like Vice and BuzzFeed, all creating high production value, often exclusive content for the platform. Like everything else on Snapchat, there’s no looking back. Everything disappears at the end of the day.

Advertising on Snapchat

As contradictory as it might seem, the ultimate in ‘short attention span’ apps is delivering what marketers covet most in the 18-34 demographic: focus. By making all videos and interaction full screen, there are no distractions, comments, and sidebars, giving marketers a full 10 seconds of undivided attention.

This combined with the rich content already on the platform has investors very bullish about its prospects. Its most recent valuation coming in at a vertigo-inducing $16 billion. Snapchat is hoping that like Instagram, it will be at the forefront of bringing brand building (which has long resisted the jump from TV) to the digital world.

The biggest overall challenge to brand building on digital continues to be one of measurement. Even though data is being collected for every interaction and swipe, affinity is something that has proven difficult to measure. But with each new big player in online advertising, analytics and targeting have improved, giving marketers access to improved view of their brand’s relationship with consumers. If Snapchat lives up to its position as a channel to the elusive millennial, it will no doubt bring new ways to understand their engagement and loyalty. We can’t wait to see the results!