Snapchat has an awareness problem. While just about everyone under the age of 25 has most likely downloaded the app and uses it regularly, the vast majority of adults don’t understand Snapchat’s vernacular of Snaps, stories and dancing hot dogs.
So, Snap is running its first TV campaign during the Final Four on TBS tonight. The 60-second spot, “A New Kind of Camera,” aims to explain Snap’s mission to be a “camera” company and is more educational than it is entertaining. The ad was created internally and the full 60-second and a 30-second version will run on TV in prime-time, cable and syndication slots for the next two months.
The ad shows people taking Snaps of everyday things—like brushing their teeth or playing with their dog—that are overlaid with the app’s filters, lenses and graphics. The last 10 seconds of the ad drives home the message that Snapchat is different from other social platforms and takes a jab at rival Instagram. “It’s a camera for talking because a Snap says more than a text,” the copy reads. “So, yeah, Snapchat is a camera—where how you feel matters more than how you look.”
Snapchat is also launching a broader digital campaign, including digital versions of the ad and the website whatis.snapchat.com to educate consumers about the app. A few of the stats Snapchat is likely to rattle off in its pitch to consumers: The average Snapchatter spends 30 minutes with the app, and more than 3.5 billion pieces of content are created every day (the average user creates 20 pieces of content daily, per Snap’s own data).
Snapchat has run clever, usually regional, out-of-home ads in the past, but this campaign marks one of the company’s first earnest advertising efforts.
Positioning Snapchat as a camera company has been CEO Evan Spiegel’s focus for the past 18 months, since Snapchat created the Snap Inc. corporate name and began manufacturing and selling video-recording Spectacles.
During Goldman Sachs’ Technology and Internet Conference in February, Spiegel said, “Snap really, very early on I think, began capitalizing on this idea that not only are cameras software, but they are connected to each other. Which means you can use cameras for talking, you can use cameras to learn about the world, you can use cameras for storytelling, and that is what the next couple of decades look like for the evolution of cameras and the evolution of Snap.”
The campaign comes at a critical time for Snapchat. At the same time it is struggling to meet investors’ expectations, it’s doling out big money on its own advertising. Earlier this week, Snapchat laid off roughly 100 advertising employees and recently also laid off 120 engineers.
And while Snapchat needs to cut costs to please Wall Street, it also needs to gain more users to satisfy investors, which in turn requires paying for advertising that reaches millions through TV ads during major sports events like March Madness. In other words, it has to spend money to earn money. Whether the educational tone will work with consumers isn’t clear, but Snapchat is clearly forking over a little money to promote the app ahead of the company’s next earnings call in May.