Snapchat Adds Advanced Ad Targeting Options Ahead of IPO
It's difficult to project what the future holds for Snapchat.
The platform built its reputation on the back of privacy, on being an alternative to Facebook where your content wasn't saved and where your personal data wasn't being sold off to advertisers to target you with behavioral-based ads.
But as Snapchat moves closer to an expected IPO, the company's been forced to re-assess some of those previously held ideals.
They added Memories back in July, drifting away from their ephemeral approach, while they moved to boost the platform's marketing appeal in September with Audience Match, a tool which enables advertisers to target Snapchat users based on their own databases of customer email addresses or mobile IDs.
And now, Snapchat looks to be taking their ad targeting to the next level, signing a deal with Oracle Data Cloud (previously known as Datalogix), that'll enable marketers to use data from offline purchases to target Snapchat users with more relevant ads.
Oracle already has similar deals in place with Google, Facebook and Twitter - how the process works is Oracle collects data from more than 1,500 data partners, including supermarket loyalty card providers, brand programs and online networks, and then matches that data against the information provided by each network to enable more advanced targeting.
So, for example, if you've signed up for a brand loyalty program using the same e-mail address you used to sign up for Snapchat, advertisers can now, potentially, purchase such insight from ODC which would enable them to reach you with adds based on what you've purchased.
The IDs are anonymized, the advertisers can't make direct connection with you, but through this system they will be able to target users based on such behavior.
Snapchat has tried to limit the intrusion - which makes sense, given CEO Evan Spiegel's past assertion that targeted ads of this type are 'creepy' and something they want to avoid. To ensure this targeting is not pushing the boundaries, Snapchat's only offering 100 wide range categories which advertisers can use. Through Oracle, they could use thousands of demographic profiles, but Snapchat will only offer broad match targeting like "men's clothing buyer" or "car shopper". This should keep the ads from being too specific - and creepy - while also enabling Snap Inc. to boost their advertiser appeal. Theoretically it's a win-win.
But it's hard to know how Snapchat users will respond.
This is likely a key question on the minds of potential Snap investors - can the company successfully monetize the platform to optimal levels when they've built their audience, at least in part, on the back of their commitment to avoiding the same ad intrusion users experience on other networks?
And if they can't, what then?
Combine this with the fact that Facebook's already eating into Snapchat's audience with similar tools and features, like Instagram Stories, and the growth prospects for Snapchat don't look as rosy as they once did.
That's not to say Snapchat's a bad bet - they've continually been able to out innovate their larger rivals, and they may continue to do so, with Spectacles standing out as a key opportunity, if they can get it right. But the path forward does have some significant obstacles in place.
It'll be interesting to see what other additions Snap Inc. comes out with ahead of the expected March IPO announcement.
Also, if you do want to opt out of Snapchat's ad targeting, you can do so in your personal settings within the app.
Follow Andrew Hutchinson on Twitter