Snapchat Makes It Easier for Advertisers to Build AR Experiences

(Bloomberg) -- Snap Inc., the maker of the Snapchat photo-sharing app, is opening up an online studio to make it easier for brands to build ads that can be overlaid on people’s pictures and videos.

On Snapchat, users can manipulate their pictures or videos using augmented-reality lenses and animations, some of which are branded -- like turning their heads into talking Taco Bell tacos, or adding an animated cartoon mascot on their shoulders. People then send those photos or videos to friends.

For advertisers, the cost of offering these sponsored lenses to Snapchat users has historically been expensive, with a minimum of $300,000 per campaign, according to the company. It also required coordination with Snap designers. Snap said Thursday it’s removing both of those hurdles. Now any advertiser can make an animation or lens using the new site, and as long as it’s approved by Snap, there’s no minimum to deploy it. Advertisers will pay Snap based on the number of users who see the creation.

Snap is working to mature its advertising business model -- a transition that has been painful for the Los Angeles-based company, whose revenue has missed analysts’ projections every quarter since its March initial public offering. Advertising on Snapchat used to be accessible only to large brands with ample budgets to experiment with new formats. This year, the company rolled out its self-service advertising system, which sets prices based on competitive bidding, making ads cheaper -- and leading to disappointing revenue results. 

As Snap makes it easier for brands to build ads, it’s opening up the tools for regular users, too. People who want to make a 3-D animation can use Snap’s creation site and then share a code that unlocks it for others.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.