Start Winning With Snapchat Ads

Madeline Gershom
Madeline Gershom 13 October 2019
Start Winning With Snapchat Ads


Snapchat has taken the world by storm. Originally launched as “Picaboo” back in July of 2011, by September of that year it was already Snapchat – and the momentum just continued from there.  Today Snap, the parent company of the app, is publicly traded and Snapchat is synonymous with innovation, pushing the boundaries, and a younger audience than other social media giants like Facebook or Pinterest.

All of this makes it extremely attractive for advertisers who want to get their message across to users of the app, in the form of Snapchat ads. The app’s interface is very different from anything else out there, particularly the “regular” social media platforms. Certainly, what works with other platforms is not guaranteed to work with Snapchat – and in missing the mark (and misreading your audience), you can do some serious brand damage.


In this post, we’ll look at how to win with your Snapchat ad campaign, how to take full advantage of the platform, and how to avoid some common pitfalls that have no doubt tripped up your competitors.

Why Snapchat

Snapchat offers access to 203m global users who use the platform every day. These users are incredibly engaged: on average, Snapchat users make use of the app over 20 times a day, spend an average of half an hour on the app daily, and exchange 3.5 billion video Snaps.

One of the keys draws of Snapchat is its user base. eMarketer reports that its US penetration rate among 12-17-year-olds is at an astounding 92%. Brands are desperate to gain a foothold in this influential market and for good reason. Not only does this cohort have tremendous spending power today, but they are also the big spenders of tomorrow.

With Snapchat constantly launching new features – what started as vertical video now includes augmented reality, long-form videos, games, special camera features, and third party content – there are so many opportunities to appeal to Snapchat users.

Before we jump into Snapchat ads themselves, it’s important to understand the structure of the Snapchat app. The app is built around 3 core areas:

  • Friends
  • Camera
  • Discover

Friends: the app is used to communicate with close friends and family through messages, pictures, and video

Camera: Snapchat opens to the camera, enabling users to take advantage of filters and AR

Discover: this section includes Stories from friends, creators, and premium content providers

Understanding the make-up of the app, its user base, and how people interact with it are the foundations of a successful Snapchat ad campaign.

Snapchat Ads

Snapchat offers a powerful ad platform. To advertise on Snapchat, your first stop is the Ad Manager, where you set up your ad campaigns and ad sets. Like with any other type of mobile advertising, the most important thing is to set up your own objectives. This can be done alone, or in collaboration with your mobile advertising partner. Some objectives may include:


  • Branding

There are few better branding opportunities than a sponsored Snapchat AR lens. Brands have leveraged this to instantly go viral, as users share your brand both privately and publicly. Having said this, awareness and branding campaigns can be successful across almost all Snapchat ads.


  • App Installs
  • App Traffic
  • Website Traffic
  • Engagement
  • Video Views
  • Lead Generation

With taps and swipes opening up a world of opportunities, Snapchat is the perfect place for performance marketing. Drive traffic, app installs or any other performance metric, and keep track of all of this with the easy to use dashboard provided by the Ads Manager.


  • App Conversions
  • Website Conversions
  • Catalog Sales

Similar to the above objectives, Snapchat is great for driving direct user action. When leveraged correctly, your funnel is short and effective.

Next is deciding what type of ads will best deliver your objective. Choosing the right ad format is critical. The following types of Snapchat ads are available:

  • Snap Ads
  • Collection Ads
  • Story Ads
  • AR Lenses
  • Filters
  • Commercials

Snap Ads
These are Snapchat ads between stories. While the user is scrolling between their stories, your ad appears. It can be text, video or even AR-enables, and can be used to drive users to your website, app, video, AR Lens, or app store page — with one swipe. It even allows forms to be autofilled by users who have previously input this information into the app.

Collection Ads
Similar to regular Snap ads, these appear in between stories. This ad format enables you to show off a series of products, and gives users a tappable, frictionless way to purchase your goods or service, or drive traffic and app installs.

Story Ads
The Discover screen on Snapchat is where the user experience really begins. Story ads allow you to have a sponsored tile on this screen, leading to significant engagement. The other content on the Discover page is specific to that user, making your ad even more irresistible. It launches a series of your own snaps from where the user can take further action by swiping.

AR Lenses
A sponsored lens is an excellent way to both take advantage of Snapchat’s powerful camera features, as well as getting users to interact with your brand. Unique sponsored lenses
are shareable, instantly viral, and result in powerful brand awareness.

Unlike an AR lens which actually “takes over” the native camera video, a Snapchat filter ads an overlay to pictures or videos. A sponsored filter that ads value or includes some cute, exciting or topical element can do wonders for brand awareness.


With the offering of premium content becoming a strategic imperative for Snap, especially given recent high profile deals that the company has struck, advertising through that content is becoming increasingly enticing. These types of video ads are a 6 second, non-skippable video within the premium content environment.

You can get help creating these ads with Snap Publisher. With Snap Publisher you can:

  • Create a new Top Snap, or enhance an existing one
  • Convert pre-existing horizontal videos into vertically oriented ones
  • Enhance video files with design elements like text, audio, images, and animations
  • Use existing templates with transitions and fading elements
  • Customize Snap Ads with content relevant to your audience, and generate multiple variations to learn which performs best
  • Work on targeting

For Snapchat to effectively serve ads to your target audience, you’ll need to work on your targeting. Snapchat targeting is based on:

Interests and behaviors
Snapchat, as a platform, has rich data on users and their interests and behaviors. You can leverage this with ads targeted to users based on these interests and behaviors, and thereby keep your ad campaign laser focused.

The platform has a surprisingly rich demographic targeting. You can target users based on their age, gender, or even household income or parental status, among others.

The location targeting feature within Snapchat is particularly powerful. It allows you to target by country, location category (e.g. “universities”), and even radiuses around specific addresses. This can then be leveraged to provide specific ad content. For example, anyone around a sports stadium can be targeted with a specific filter or lens.

Custom Audiences
Similar to other platforms, with Snapchat’s custom audiences you can retarget users who have seen your ads in the past, or otherwise engaged with you in some other way.

If you think you’ve found a winning audience, you can replicate your success with lookalike audiences suggested by Snapchat’s algorithm.

Measuring Success

In order to assess your progress and bring you closer to your goals, you first have to measure your progress against pre-selected benchmarks. The Snapchat Ad Manager platform allows you to do this pretty easily.

With the Ad Manager platform you can keep track of:

Campaign Performance

These are the basics and are similar to the analytics offered by other platforms. Metrics that you can follow include stats like swipes and impressions (paid and organic), ad spend, demographics, goals and bids. You can slice and dice this information to get great insights into where you can optimize your campaign. The platform also allows you to drill down into specific metrics to get valuable data.

Mobile app Analytics

Web Conversions

You’ll want to see the results of your Snapchat ads not just on the platform itself, but in terms of overall results. The platform enables you to track conversions across devices, retarget audiences, optimize bids for the most effective conversions, and keep on top of events further down your funnel with the Snap Pixel.

App Conversions

Using Snapchat’s attribution and analytics tools (provided by 3rd-party partners but easy to integrate), you can see how your Snapchat ads drive installs and and other actions for your app.

Measuring your progress, and comparing it to benchmarks that you’ve set, is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to any ad campaign. For Snapchat, this is especially true, as small, incremental changes can have a massive effect on your results.

We don’t advocate making constant, wholesale changes, of course. What we are saying though is that through rigorous A/B testing, you can significantly boost your key metrics. We’ve seen, for example, how just changing a graphic slightly can increase conversion rates tremendously.

Snapchat Ads Costs

By now you’re probably wondering how much do Snapchat ads cost. Well, like any good question, the answer is: “It depends.”

When it comes to Snapchat ads price, it depends on the type of ad being used, as well as the payment method set. For example, you can pay per impression or per goal. Whereas in the past there was a minimum spend level (ranging from $1,000 to $3,000), today you can kick of with a budget even smaller than that.

App acquisition costs
App acquisition costs

Some of the big-ticket items can be pricey though, although the value you can get is really impressive. A sponsored lens that we discussed previously, can be provided to users around the launch of a product, an event (for example around a big sporting event) or a time of year like a holiday. Obviously these types of ads are at the more expensive end of the Snapchat ad spectrum, as they are seen, used and shared by millions of people every day. They can range from around $400,000 up to $800,000, depending on campaign parameters.

Snapchat ads, when done correctly, show a strong ROI. They can be started with a modest budget, and there’s something for everyone: from global giants to the newest startups.

Snapchat Ads Best Practice

You want to get the most out of your Snapchat ads, right? What follows are the most important things to bear in mind when running your campaigns on this platform. We can’t stress it enough: you cannot just “copy-paste” your creatives from other platforms onto Snapchat. To be successful on the channel, you need to really understand how to leverage it effectively.

What follows are top tips from Snap themselves that will ensure your ad campaigns are well on their way to success:

Overall Tips:

Native Style: Develop video ad creative with Snapchat’s platform and visual language in mind. Ads that feature UGC (User Generated Content) look and feel, Snapchat inspired features, and speaking to the camera are significantly stronger at driving view-through while performing on par at driving ad awareness compared to a polished ad style. Consider an endemic creative style to increase duration.

Simple Creative: Keep ad creative simple and concise with a clear key message. Ads should seek to mirror the bite-sized and linear storytelling of Snaps. Snapchat recommends keeping duration closer to 05-:06. Snapchat applies a brand name and headline to the upper left corner of your creative. To prevent overlap, keep the top 150 px of the canvas clear of graphics or logos.

Early Branding: Establish a brand moment before the: 02 marks to maximize ad awareness, but avoid opening on a solid frame with a logo or product shot only. Opening with dynamic footage provides a great moment to hook viewers.

Encourage Swipe Up: If running an attachment, ensure the Top Snap acts as a teaser with actionable messaging to incentivize Snapchatters to swipe up. Feature a strong and relevant call-to-action.

Frequency: Incremental exposures increase lift in resonance metrics, despite having a negative impact on view duration. Focus on driving resonance metrics rather than view duration.

For Snap ads:

  • Feature a ‘Hero’ message from the opening frame
  • Use voiceover call to actions to encourage swipe up
  • 0:03 – 0:05 is the sweet spot for Snap Ad length to drive action
  • Test all types of Snap Ads from video to stills, to gifs or cinemagraphs (one per Ad Set)
  • Align creative with targeting where possible- higher relevancy leads to higher swipe and conversion rates!
  • Consider stopping animation or GIFs for your Top Snap
  • Provide an offer message, if available, within second 2 or 3

When driving app installs:

App Installs are an unobtrusive way for Snapchatters to download your app. One swipe opens an embedded App Store or Google Play Store page. One tap later, the app installs in the background.

  • Showcase key metrics to demonstrate the value of the app
  • Feature a person using the app
  • Showcase the app UX
  • Use the creative to showcase what the user can expect from the app
  • Feature a single-minded message from the opening frame
  • Add a visual or a voice call to action that is relevant to the app and its value proposition
  • Try to align the voiceover content to the call to action (the audio should say ‘Install’ or ‘Install Now’ if you plan to use the INSTALL_NOW call to action and vice versa for DOWNLOAD)
  • Educate Users as to what the app does visually
  • Where possible, use INSTALL_NOW or DOWNLOAD as your CTA as these have both the strongest conversion rates and CPIs

Being aware of best practice enables you to get your campaign off to a running start. It also helps to see what others are doing on the platform. See what impresses you and what you think can be improved upon. There are some inspiring brands doing very different things with the technological capabilities of the platform, and these can be incorporated in your campaigns too. Speak to us if you’re looking for benchmark metrics that you’d like to measure your own Snapchat campaign against.

Winning With Snapchat Ads

If you want to appeal to a younger audience in a way that really speaks to that audience, then Snapchat ads are for you. Thanks to the platform’s multiple ad formats, there’s always a way to achieve your goals. Whether you’re looking for performance marketing like driving app installs or raising brand awareness, there’s a Snapchat ad for you.

As we’ve seen, Snapchat ads are very different from other platforms’ ads. This is, of course, true if we’re talking AR lenses and filters, but it’s also true across all ads on the platform. Navigating this correctly is going to be critical to your Snapchat ad campaign’s success.

If you’re looking for an experienced Snapchat ads partner, who’s done this before and works with the best in the business, we should talk. At Moburst, we’ve helped top brands succeed with their social media campaigns, including driving incredible Snapchat ads results.

To find out more, get in touch. Let’s leverage this incredible channel to maximize your potential!


Madeline Gershom
Madeline Gershom
Madeline is an ASO Analyst at Moburst and channels her competitive spirit to provide the right insight to improve app ranking, visibility, and downloads. Her frequent chocolate breaks keep her mind sharp and heart happy.
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