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Behind The Brand

How Coca-Cola Cracked Snapchat

In a new Fast Company feature, Coca-Cola execs explain how Coke made an ad Snapchat users wanted to watch.

[Source photo: MAHATHIR MOHD YASIN via Shutterstock]

Much like its peers, Snapchat thinks it can revolutionize brand advertising for digital platforms. "There’s a tremendous pent-up demand for big-brand advertisers to allocate their brand advertising to digital," Snapchat’s chief strategy officer Imran Khan told Fast Company in a new feature story. Most advertisers are still pouring resources into television and print media—this year alone, advertisers allegedly spent $32 billion on magazine and newspaper ads—but social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are all betting they can strike gold when the ad industry begins to rely exclusively on digital.

As Fast Company learned, a key rationale for why tech giants like Snapchat should target big-brand advertisers is because it can be difficult to judge the success of a campaign, which means advertisers with smaller budgets may be turned off by the lack of obvious results. But for a brand like Taco Bell, throwing money at a digital platform like Snapchat makes sense as part of a national campaign. Taco Bell's chief brand engagement officer told Fast Company that Taco Bell has been more successful on Snapchat than on any other social network—but comparing that success to other efforts, such as TV ads, is a challenge:

Marisa Thalberg, who oversees how youth-oriented fast-food chain Taco Bell interacts with customers, says that Snapchat has become its "most engaged platform." Including TV? "No, no, on social," she quickly responds, before stopping short, reconsidering, and adding with a laugh, "Although how do you measure engagement on TV? Who knows? Maybe it is."

Companies that want to snag millennial eyeballs turn to Snapchat for obvious reasons, and will continue to do so. "You know the audience you’re getting," one digital Hollywood executive told Fast Company. "Everyone who has a child between 12 and 24 knows who’s using it and the success with it. So it’s not a secret who you’re advertising to."

But this doesn't mean brands are getting their full attention, even on a platform like Snapchat that skews young. Earlier this year, Snapchat found that 60% to 70% of users stopped watching ads on the app just three seconds in.

Executives at Coca-Cola, however, revealed to Fast Company that Coke has managed to turn that number around, and has seen a marked upswing in engagement on Snapchat. The trick? Tailoring its ad content to the messaging app:

"We learned we needed to adjust the way we talk to Snapchat’s audience, because they detect when it’s advertising," says Coca-Cola North America content SVP Emmanuel Seuge. The company’s ads repurposed from TV and other social networks performed poorly during Snapchat’s Live Story for the NCAA Final Four tournament. The soda brand continued working "hand in hand" with Snapchat to develop more ad programs; not long ago, as part of Snapchat’s back-to-high-school Story featuring scenes from kids’ first day of classes, the completion rate for a Snapchat-exclusive 10-second Coke spot shot up to 54%.

Snapchat's selling point continues to be its audience, despite sky-high advertising rates and misgivings that it doesn't offer brands detailed metrics on viewership. The company is acutely aware that it offers unique access to a young audience: As one marketing exec told Fast Company, "They understand their power right now, and they’re just egotistical about what they have."

Still, brands like Coca-Cola are eager to invest money and resources into Snapchat as the company fine-tunes its advertising push. "[Snapchat] is not going to get held to the same sort of rigorous metrics that we can now put in place for other vendors with more granular data," Coca-Cola exec Ivan Pollard explained to Fast Company. "We’re willing to risk a bit of money to learn."

Related: Watch 128 years Of Coca-Cola’s History In 2 Minutes

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