Want to Make an Ad Compelling? Make it Disappear

Disappearing Billboard

I started my career as a journalist.  Even now, I love looking back over the articles I’ve written.  I like that people can still find that content and that it might be meaningful to them days or weeks or months or years later.  As a result, I’m not sure I get Snapchat.  Or maybe, I’m not sure I want to get Snapchat.

Earlier this week, Henry Blodget made a prediction that Snapchat’s revenue play is going to be…. wait for it… advertising.

Hmmm… that’s a bit anticlimactic…

Imagine a social media company making money on advertising.  Wow, maybe Google could try that.  Or Facebook.  Seriously, Snapchat’s entry into advertising isn’t news, it’s what the French call a “fait accompli”, something so predictable that we all knew it before it was announced.

That’s not what worries me about the Snapchat/advertising business model.  I’ll get back to that in a minute.  For those of you who don’t know, Snapchat is a communication medium that disappears.  You take a photo to share a thought.  Your friend(s) open your shared item, which then disappears within a few seconds.  Kids love it.  Sexters really love it.  Afraid you might say something inappropriate?  Snapchat is perfect for you.  It’s random comments.  But they come at you in rapid succession (depending on how many friends you have on Snapchat), over 24 hours a day (depending on what time they go to bed.)

So, here’s what worries me…  As Snapchat opens the door to advertisers, those advertisers are going to think of clever ways to deliver a message that expires in a few seconds.  It’s like passing a billboard on the highway.  If you blink, you might miss it.  You might get another glimpse a few miles down the road, might recognize the color or shape of the billboard and that time, you will pay more attention because you know you missed it the first time.

The act of missing the first billboard helped to burn it into your brain.  It made you curious, and you were actually glad to see it again so that you could figure out what you missed.  Snapchat is like that.  If you miss it the first time, you can bet advertisers will send that clever campaign a second time.  And that time, you’ll be excited to see the message in a way that you’ve never been excited to see an ad before.

They’re getting into our brains.  They’re messing with our pleasure centers.  As a result, they have the ability to create some awesome friggin’ ads.  I’m not sure we’ve made it to the real game-changer in advertising, but we getting closer.

Ads that we WANT to see?  Ads that make us feel like winners just because we were there to catch them?  … That is remarkable.


photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4226919254/

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