- Snapchat plans to start testing six-second video ads that can't be skipped, a departure from its past practice of letting its users tap their phone screens to jump straight to desired content, according to Digiday. The test will reportedly begin around May 15.
- The image-messaging app's new ad format, called "Commercials," will run in some Snapchat Shows, but not in its Discover section that features professionally produced content or users' personal stories.
- In other news, Snapchat on Thursday released the second iteration of Spectacles, the wearable glasses that let users snap and share photos and videos. The upgraded glasses include color and prescription options, a slimmer frame and charging case and can be used underwater, per TechCrunch.
Snapchat has previously been reluctant to impose ads on its users. Now, it appears that the social media company is warming up to the idea after it faced a difficult first year since going public in March 2017, rife with slow user growth and challenges luring more advertisers onto its platform.
Like all media channels, Snapchat faces the dilemma of trying to please the ad-buying clients it is dependent on to make money while also avoiding annoying audiences with intrusive commercials. Marketers want some kind of reassurance that their ads are actually being seen, but many Snapchat users quickly skip ads when given the choice. More than two-thirds (69%) of Americans "always" or "often" skip ads on the app, a figure that rises to 80% for 18- to 24-year-olds, according to a 2017 study cited by Digiday.
A six-second ad isn't too onerous to sit through, which is one reason why digital and TV channels are embracing the format. If targeted and timed properly, these super-short ads could be helpful to consumers in the market for a certain product or service. But forcing audiences to watch too many of these ads may be off-putting for some. Snapchat has faced negative repercussions in the past for making changes to its platform, such as the redesign that separated media content from posts made by friends. The company is testing a rollback of that design to prevent users from fleeing the platform.
Social media platforms like Snapchat continually test ways to appeal to both advertisers and users on mobile platforms as consumers shift their viewing habits to smartphones, where the majority of social media use takes place. Parent company Snap is under pressure to monetize its audience of 187 million users and get on the path to profitability. The company hasn't grown as quickly as initially expected, especially as competitors like Instagram copy key features that Snapchat popularized, like its Stories format that strings together a series of photos and videos into a single post that disappears after 24 hours.