Social Media

Coming Soon To Snapchat: Dads And Ads

Now that people with money are using the app, advertisers are flocking

Social Media
Is Snapchat going grey? — Getty Images
Jun 14, 2016 at 9:30 AM ET

Since it came on the scene in 2011, Snapchat has quickly exploded into the go-to social media destination for the very young and hip. And until now, the experience remained relatively ad-free. But, bad news, kiddos: the times they are a-changin’. New data reveals the olds are flocking to the app en masse—groan, hi mom—as Snapchat launches an ambitious new plan to run ads between your stories. Is this the beginning of the end?

The problem is that until now, brands made deals exclusively with Snapchat, which limited the sponsored onslaught. But the arrival of Snapchat Partners will allow select companies to use Snapchat’s new advertising API to run spots on their own. These third party partners will consist of a mix of creative agencies and outfits which develop software that enables the buying and analyzing of campaigns. The real kicker, though, is the rollout of the new “Snap Ads Between Stories” feature, which, as the name suggests, puts ads in between your friends’ stories. All of this together should mean a sizeable increase in the amount of ads you’re served up while using the app.

It’s only in the past 18 months that the company started dabbling in advertising—mostly by offering sponsored stories, lenses, and geofilters. With a few notable exceptions (namely the offensive Bob Marley blackface filter and the X-Men campaign that pissed people off by commandeering all the lenses for the day), these campaigns were fairly successful. It was only a matter of time before Snapchat went looking for more.

But before you panic that this is all going to ruin your carefully cultivated Snapchat experience, take a deep breath. You’ll be able to swipe past the ads that run between stories, and Snapchat has pledged that there won’t be a lot of them and those that do appear will all be reviewed and will be subject to intense quality control. Also, lenses and geofilters aren’t part of this deal, so at least those ultra-flattering filters will not be messed with…for now.

Snapchat attracts tremendous interest from advertisers, and the company is eager to capitalize on the service’s estimated 150 million daily users.  The issue as the social media force becomes even more giant, though, is whether they can keep their identity as a place that can deliver a captive audience of young and influential customers. New data, which was compiled by market research firm eMarketer, found that the service was increasingly being adopted by many Americans in the older age brackets.

The biggest growth is taking place in the 55-64 year old group, who are considered downright elderly in social media terms. That demographic grew 44.6 percent since last year, and there are now one million strong. Even those eligible for social security cannot resist the chance to face swap with their friends (or maybe their grandkids?). There are now nearly half a million users that are over 65.

Of course what’s considered “old” in the social media universe is still depressingly young by any other standard. For instance, the service had 7.6 million users between ages 25 and 34 in 2014, but by 2016 that number was up to 15.8 million. They’re practically ancient when you compare them to the 20 million 18 to 24 year olds who are now using Snapchat. Moving even closer to the nursing home, there are now 4.8 million users that are between 35 to 44 (up from 2.5 in 2014), and 2.3 million between 45-54 (up from 1.1 million).

It’s not really surprising that all age brackets have seen large growth, since the social messaging service has been experiencing an impressive explosion of growth—similar to the liftoff Facebook achieved when it launched. And while the greying of Snapchat’s user base is in keeping with its remarkable growth in every direction, the double whammy provided by the expansion of the ad program has the potential to put off a lot of the very coveted young users they’re desperate to retain.

But will addition of old people (aka parents) actually detract younger users and send advertisers running to the next youth haven?

Probably not. Facebook for example, aggressively throws ads our way, but that’s rarely–if ever–cited as the reason for any stagnation in growth. Instagram also eased ads into our feeds without too much fallout. The good news for Snapchat in particular is that there’s plenty of fresh blood coming aboard. Besides 55 year olds, their biggest growth group is made up of users under 12.

While it would have been nice to subsist in a blissfully ad-minimized environment forever, Snapchat is a company that wants to make money, and it set an exceedingly ambitious goal—to rake in one billion dollars by 2017. (This year it’s only expected to pull in somewhere between 250 and 350 million.) If Snapchat wants to hit that mark, it needs to broaden their appeal to draw in your parents and grandparents and maybe even your toddler cousins too.

Fortunately, you’ve got a few weeks before ads start showing up to mentally prepare yourselves. Though the question remains: will you ever be mentally prepared for seeing your mom with dogface or your dad in a flower crown?