Snapchat Says “No” to Big Data

evansnapchatIf you’re not using Snapchat, the mobile photo sharing app, then here is perhaps the one statistic you need to know to understand why advertisers and marketers have a growing fixation with it: 60 percent of smartphone owners ages 13 to 34 use Snapchat, the company says.

In a world where it’s hard to reach a younger audience, some believe Snapchat may hold the keys to the millennial kingdom. And it’s why the company has raised so much venture capital that it reportedly has a $19 billion valuation.

But, the company has also thrown the marketing industry a bit of a curveball. Where other social and mobile services like to highlight their treasure chest of data and their ability to target and personalize ads, Snapchat is going old school. It essentially plans to use none of those things as it builds its advertising business.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, speaking recently at the Cannes Lions advertising and marketing event in France, gave the thumbs down to data-driven advertising. He claimed Snapchat was not building large data profiles of users because he hates the targeted ads that are increasingly dominating the web.

“I got an ad this morning for something I was thinking about buying yesterday,” he said. “And it’s really annoying…We care about not being creepy. That’s something that’s really important to us.”

So what is Snapchat doing instead?

First, a brief primer on Snapchat. The app lets users send photos or short videos to each other that can be viewed once, and then vanish. But, the company has also launched two other interesting features: Stories and Discover.

Stories essentially gathers ‘snaps’ people take around a particular event or place. During Cannes Lions, for instance, the “French Riviera” story was gaining huge viewership. Rather than creating these stories using an algorithm, Snapchat uses human editors to curate them into short two- to five-minute stories.

As for Discover, these are news stories created with various media partners like MTV and Yahoo and Cosmopolitan. They are updated about once each day. And like Stories, the key to their popularity is the involvement of human editors, Spiegel said.

“One of the things we said that was really different was, we said that editors are really important,” Spiegel said in Cannes. “We’ve seen channels with really strong editors outperform other channels.”

Embracing that un-Big Data philosophy, Snapchat recently introduced its 3V Advertising product. These are basically vertical video ads that are inserted into the middle of Stories so they can’t be skipped while you watch the photos and videos. In that respect, the ads Snapchat recently announced feel like what you’re used to from television, or radio.

To foster this kind of mobile advertising, Snapchat also announced Truffle Pig, a social content shop for brands. Truffle Pig was launched in partnership with advertising giant WPP and the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper. Again, the goal of Truffle Pig seems to be to lean more heavily on the traditional creative elements long used to create TV or radio ads rather than mining data to target a young audience.

Snapchat is certainly going against the conventional wisdom that companies like Facebook and Twitter and Google have used to build huge advertising businesses. Of course, there’s likely room for more than one approach in the Digital Age.

What will be interesting to see is whether Snapchat succeeds with its approach. If so, whether others will follow their lead and move away from Big Data for advertising and marketing.

Image credit: Cannes Lions

Posted in Sales & Marketing by Lisa Petrucci

Lisa Petrucci is Vice President of Dun & Bradstreet Global Alliances and Partnerships.

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