scaling snapchat ads

3 Key Strategies to Master Snapchat Ads

By Shamanth Rao | November 26, 2018

Snapchat is often thought of as a poor second cousin to the bigger ad platforms like Facebook and Google.

Yet Snap has close to 200 million MAU and a highly engaged user base, especially among younger audiences. Most importantly, Snapchat still has far lower competition compared to some of the other ad platforms. That means Snap has a fraction of the CPMs of Facebook and Google, offering tremendous opportunities for discerning performance marketers.

This is precisely the opportunity that we have capitalized on for many of our clients. For us, leveraging some of the unique capabilities of the Snap platform resulted in great performance, ROI and scale.

The one caveat: what works on other platforms cannot be directly replicated on Snapchat. Winning on Snapchat requires a nuanced understanding of the Snap platform – coupled with custom-tailored creative, bidding and targeting strategies.

Below are three strategies that we have found to be key to our clients’ success on Snapchat.

1. Customize your creative strategy for the Snap platform

I once made a carefully thought-out, elaborate storyboard for a video ad. I thought it checked all the boxes for both great strategy as well as execution. As expected, this video worked really well on Facebook, Google and video ad networks.

However, the same video totally bombed on Snapchat. The performance was terrible. I couldn’t explain what was happening. We had hit all our key messages, shown what we thought was fun and compelling imagery and depicted a clear call-to-action. So what gave?

It took some amount of introspection and subsequent experimentation for me to realize that the more elaborate videos that work on Facebook and video channels don’t work on Snapchat simply because Snap is a different medium. Snap users want quicker, shorter pieces of content. And yes, if you thought 15 second ads on Facebook were short, you need to make your Snap ads even snappier.

That, it turned out, was the key. As we tested very short ads (mostly six seconds or less) with very simple messaging, our results went through the roof.

The same approach worked for Snapchat Story Ads, or Product Catalog ads. Tailoring our creative strategy for the Snap platform and its specific ad formats has reaped enormous dividends.

Truly, as Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.”

2. Experiment with bid strategies

I was very hesitant to try Story Ads on Snapchat – for the sole reason that the bidding strategies for these ads only support CPM or cost per story open, but not CPI or cost per downstream event.

It was only after I began testing these ads and saw strong performance that I became increasingly comfortable with bidding on CPM or cost per story open.

I found that even though Snap does not (yet – as of this writing) allow optimization for downstream events like purchases or in-app events, the existing bidding models still offer immense potential to scale.

It certainly took some testing and experimentation to understand the nuances of bidding on Snapchat. For instance, we found that we could increase our bids and install volumes manyfold without seeing our actual CPIs go up because the Snap platform’s second-place auction bidding algorithm operates with far lesser competition compared to other platforms.

Once we embraced these nuances of bidding strategy, experimented with them and capitalized on our learnings, we began to unlock massive gains in performance and scale for our clients.

3. Choose your targeting wisely

The many targeting options on Snapchat gives you a lot of control over the kinds of users you get to target with your ads. While lookalikes are a safe option for most advertisers, we have seen great results by targeting pre-defined audiences.

Especially for products with mass appeal, we have found it very valuable to test various predefined audiences. Sometimes, predefined audiences that don’t seem to be an obvious fit for the product perform really well, which shows that the only way to truly tell is by testing and experimenting.

We also recommend testing different creatives against different audience segments, especially when different messaging resonates with different audiences. As you scale and grow your campaigns, the additional granularity of matching audiences and creatives becomes increasingly impactful.


We have seen tremendous performance in scale and ROI for many of our clients from leveraging the full power and potential of Snapchat ads. The key, as we’ve found, is to recognize the unique capabilities of the Snap ads platform and tailor our creative, bidding and targeting strategies for its nuances.

About Shamanth Rao 
Shamanth Rao is the founder and CEO of RocketShipHQ, a boutique growth marketing firm specializing in performance marketing driven by video ad production. Shamanth was one of the earliest Mobile Heroes. Previously, Shamanth led growth efforts leading to two acquisitions – Bash Gaming (acquired for $170 million) and PuzzleSocial (acquired by Zynga).

About PuzzleSocial
Launched in 2010, PuzzleSocial is the maker of Daily Celebrity Crossword, the world’s most-solved and top grossing daily digital crossword puzzle. The app was developed for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle devices and Facebook. PuzzleSocial was acquired by Zynga in 2016.