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Snapchat has pioneered AR advertising at scale with Lenses: Prasanna Raman

The year 2020 has taught brands that the digital ecosystem is capable of results that rival and often surpass the impact of traditional media. The social media sites are no longer a space meant only for entertainment and networking. Well, over half the world’s population is currently online and using some form of social media, 4.5 billion people use up to six or seven different platforms monthly and spend two to three hours a day.

As the pandemic was a booming period for most of the social media apps, Snapchat saw its revenue increasing by as much as 3x of what it has been in the past few years. After the social media giant released its recent June quarter earnings report, Snap reported a jump in its global revenue to $982 million as well as a spike in its daily active users (DAUs) to 293 million, even as it crossed 60 million users in India.

According to a report, more than 200 million Snapchatters engage with AR every day on average, and over 200,000 creators use Lens Studio to build AR Lenses for the community. The tech giant has also partnered with Bumble and Viber to bring Lenses to their respective mobile apps and is working with Google to bring Lenses directly to the new JioPhone in India with a native camera integration.

Snap Inc. has also aired eight shows in Q2 of 2021, which received tremendous responses by viewers all over the world. In June 2021, they launched two new creator shows – ‘What’s on my plate’ with Anushka Sen and ‘Vir Das - The Most Epic Max Show in India’ – which gained a huge traction with the Indian audiences. Total daily time spent by Snapchatters in India watching shows and publisher content increased by 150 per cent year-over-year.

The analysis showed that Snapchat campaigns contributed an average of 16 per cent incremental reach to advertisers’ target audiences, and over 70 per cent of the Gen Z audience that was reached by Snapchat was not reached by TV-only campaigns. This is especially important as people are increasingly cutting the cord, and mobile content consumption continues to grow, presenting Snap with a large opportunity to help advertisers reach the Snapchat Generation at scale.

In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Prasanna Raman, Advertiser Solutions Lead, Snap Inc., speaks about the key factors driving the YoY growth of Snapchat in India, engagement of brands on the platform, learnings from 2020 and projections about 2021, initiatives for the Indian market and a lot more. 

In India, Snapchat has seen over 100% YoY growth in Daily Active Users (DAUs) in each of the last five quarters. What are the key factors driving this growth? Moreover, Snapchat’s localisation strategy in India has seen great success. Could you elaborate on the various initiatives undertaken to localise the product as well as local marketing activities in India?

We have continuously made efforts to make Snapchat more relevant for our Indian community. We have created a strong partner network that has contributed to our growth through different collaborations like Creator Shows, Snap Games, SnapKit and features like Here For You. 

We have created lenses for important cultural moments and festivals like Diwali, Holi, Onam, Pongal, Vaisakhi, to name a few, and have worked alongside brands to create campaigns around these moments that have resonated with Gen Z, even while we have been physically distant. One of the noteworthy campaigns that we have created is a Diwali (2020) campaign for OnePlus, which helped people bring in cheer and optimism while we were at home and unable to celebrate in person. The Lenses garnered over 80 million impressions and reached over 14 million Snapchatters in India.

This year, on 15th August, celebrating India’s 75th Independence Day, we launched our third Landmarker Lens in India at the India Gate, bringing the historic monument alive through AR! This opens up a new avenue for brands to engage with the iconic monument through our Landmarker Lens. The lens delivered a 9pt Ad Awareness and a 7pt Message Awareness lift, way higher than the industry norms. 

India is also one of the few countries where Snap is creating Originals. Earlier this year, we launched India’s first Snap Original ‘Phone Swap India’, a dating reality show which was the first non-English Snap Original. In June 2021, we launched our two new creator shows, ‘What’s on my plate’ with Anushka Sen and ‘Vir Das - The Most Epic Max Show’, for which we received tremendous response.

Additionally, through our recent partnership with Jio Next, the users can access Snapchat lenses right from the camera app. We had earlier partnered with Jio’s Got Talent to create a unique Snapchat AR Lens, where Snapchatters could record a 10-second video to highlight their unique skills. A Jio’s Got Talent Lens was introduced on the platform for the talent hunt. The Lens allowed users to make videos with different AR props, including hats, headphones, light rings, and mics.

We are also working with several Indian brands such as Netflix, Chupa Chup, Samsung, Intel Evo, HP, Nykaa, Spotify, One Plus, Swiggy, ITC Yippee Noodles, and Amazon Prime Video to create engaging campaigns that help them expand their reach. 

How are you creating opportunities for brands to engage with their consumers?

As Snapchat ads are full-screen, immersive and engaging, they inspire action and work for all advertisers and brands across verticals. Advertising on Snapchat allows you to connect with Snapchatters in a way that’s conversational, non-intrusive and feels organic to the platform. Our ads are also tailored to advertising needs and business goals. With all the above, Snap has become a preferred platform for brands.

Brands want to establish a direct connection with Gen Z and are keen on finding innovative ways to keep them engaged. We are working with several Indian brands to offer solutions that are best suited for them.

We worked with Swiggy, the online food delivery platform, to increase its user base and cater to a new set of audiences. In a 6-month-partnership with Snapchat, Swiggy explored the ad format that helped it deliver 11,000-plus new food orders each month at the lowest cost per customer acquisition.

Recently, we strengthened our ad platform to drive improved outcomes for advertisers all over the world. We added app installs as a goal-based bidding objective for sponsored AR Lenses; and launched Snap Connect, an extension of our online learning portal Snap Focus that focuses specifically on direct response advertising.

We pioneered AR advertising at scale with Lenses and have been tirelessly innovating ever since by launching features such as the Landmarker templates and AR try-on.

In a recent collaboration for ‘Feels Like Ishq’ on Netflix, we created a unique AR lens, following the plot of the series. The unique ‘Love Prediction’ lens appeared in the form of a mystical crystal ball predicting unusual places and situations where Snapchatters could find love. The lens received a tremendous response from Snapchatters. 

At the Snap Partner Summit, 2021, we also announced the launch of Public Profiles for Business that now gives brands of all sizes a free, permanent home for all their unique Snapchat content. Public Profiles give brands the ability to have an organic presence on Snapchat and house all of their unique Snapchat content in one discoverable place. 

What have been your key learnings/ observations from the pandemic period?

As a result of the pandemic, Gen Z has a renewed appreciation for friends and family and they carry this deep need for human connection as a defining characteristic. When asked, what are the three things that they won’t go a day without? The Snapchat Generation listed talking to their parents and family, staying in touch with their friends and being active on social communication and camera apps as their main preferences.

For Gen Z, the sense of belonging and relationships are extremely important. If brands can play a contributing role by helping form stronger relationships, there is a tremendous opportunity to create engaging experiences that lend themselves to sharing.

Since most of us are now spending more time than ever on our smartphones, this has changed the way consumers and brands interact with each other. The number of Snapchatters engaging daily with AR “lenses” has grown significantly since the pandemic began.

The pandemic intensified e-commerce adoption across the consumer chain and this has created a major opportunity pool for brands across sectors to adopt AR-based marketing. With reduced consumer preference and the ability to visit physical stores, businesses have been more open to experimenting with AR to drive sales through virtual product awareness. 

What will be the key focus areas for Snap business in the second half of 2021 and beyond?

Creativity and innovation have always been our focus at Snapchat. As we continue to work on making Lenses more realistic, immersive, accurate and easy to navigate, our recent investment in Lens capabilities is now attracting more brands than ever. We fundamentally believe that every business needs a camera strategy as AR helps brands to connect better with consumers.

Connecting with the community that drives change and builds brand love with the evolving Snapchat generation remains a priority. To create even more localised experiences, we will continue to enhance our AR capabilities and grow our Snap Lens Network ecosystem in India.

As we look ahead to this year, we will double down on investment in partnerships, experiences and product developments that help Snapchat resonate with our community in India.

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