How to advertise your app with Snapchat ads

Snapchat ads are fairly new, while Facebook ads or even Instagram ads have had quite a lot of success for mobile app install campaigns. Is advertising on Snapchat worth it for mobile app publishers and game studios? Given how serious Snapchat seems about growing their ad business, it very well might be.

Table of Content

Let’s have a close look at what makes Snapchat unique for mobile advertisers, their formats and what you should consider to evaluate the growing opportunity.


The fastest growing social media platform

Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social media platform. And it’s growing not only in the US, but in Europe and the rest of the world as well.

Snapchat is fun, Snapchat innovates. Between the “flashy” style and creativity of users’ snaps, the animated lenses (after acquiring Looksery) and now the Spectacles, they know how to differentiate themselves and create trends.

And of course, they decided to help advertisers leverage their platform. It’s not all about the fun.

So it doesn’t really matter what you think about Snapchat: it’s here to stay. And that’s why it should matter to you: it’s a great way to target a younger audience: the infamous Millenials.

Trying Snapchat ads doesn’t require a presence on the platform

On Facebook and Instagram your profile will appear when advertising. This is not the case on Snapchat.

This means that if that’s where your audience is, and as long as your video creatives fit in, you can give it a shot (once they are easier to try – keep reading).

Targeting on Snapchat

Targeting on Snapchat is not as evolved as on Facebook or Instagram. And it might never be, one of the reasons being that its CEO has always voiced against retargeting.

But it is already pretty good, as you can target users by:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Mobile network carrier
  • Device or operating system
  • Type of content users engage with

In addition, they now allow targeting using lookalikes audiences as well as using email databases and other data sources.

Snapchat also seems to be working on “sequential messaging”, allowing to target users that have already engaged with an earlier ad.

Early results for Snapchat app install campaigns

Measuring Snapchat ads performance seems to still be quite challenging.

And that’s where mobile app install campaigns might have an advantage: it’s easier to measure the click through rate (the swipe to see the app page) and install rate.

Snapchat’s Internal Data indicates that the swipe-up rate for Snap Ads (not only app install ads) is 5x higher than the average click-through rate on comparable platforms.

According to Manning Field from the mobile app Acorn, they found a 40% higher install rates than on Facebook. With a higher price, but a higher download rate. They think that the swipe up interaction might be more engaging than clicks, which could make sense given that users on Snapchats are used to swiping (when watching Discover content).

It’s important to keep in mind that those are the results given by Snapchat and early case studies, and they therefore present the most promising ones.

Snapchat ads API

So how does it work when you want to get started with Snapchat advertising?

The company started by testing Snapchat ads with only a few brand partners. But has now launched an ads API that allows third-party partners to deliver Snap ads (see below) for brands and agencies.

Snapchat is also apparently working on a self-serve ad platform so brands can advertise their campaigns directly without going through a third-party. And that’s when it will really get interesting for mobile app publishers and game companies.


At the moment, Snapchat has 3 different ads format. The ones the most likely to become available to startups and game studios are the video ads, the “Snap ads”.

Snap ads – Mobile video ads

Snap Ads are 10-second vertical and full screen video. They appear just like any Snap would, with an “Ad” mention at the bottom right of the screen.

Snapchat started by adding Snap ads when watching the Live and Discover content. They’ve now added ads in Stories, when you auto-advance or swipe to view the next user’s Stories. You see much less of the latter though for the time being.

Some ads are just the 10s video, but advertisers can also give the choice to swipe up and see more content:

  • A long form video – brands usually use it to tell the story they couldn’t really tell in a 10s video. The long form videos I’ve seen were all landscape videos (see example below).
  • An article
  • A mobile website (see examples below)
  • An app install ad – Clearly this is the format we’re most interested in. Despite seeing plenty of the other ads and trying to be targeted, I haven’t seen any app install ads within the app (yet). We’ll add examples as soon as we spot some, and you can find our advices and best practices for Snapchat video ads here.

According to Digiday in this article, interactive videos (the ones that allow to interact with the ad to do one of the actions above) are twice as expensive as non-interactive ads: 4 cents a view vs. 2 cents a view.

Snapchat seems to allow A/B testing, which means that advertisers can test different ads and see which ones perform best. A great feature for mobile app campaigns.

As far as we know, the ads work with a cost per view model, and Snapchat charges as soon as the video ad is loaded and starts. Meaning that if your ad is skipped you are still paying.

Sponsored geofilters

Sponsored geofilters are quite different from Snap ads.

The ad format is now opened to anyone (people and small businesses included). You create a design online or upload it, you choose a time slot (from a few hours to several days), you draw a fence (you define a zone on a map where people will be able to get the filter), and you pay online.

The longer you choose to make the Snapchat geofilter available and the bigger the surface you define, the more you pay.

When I first tried it I was able to use a geofence on half a block and get a $10 price/hour. Now it seems your fence needs to be at least 20,000 sq. ft and the price comes at $5000 (for an hour). It also seems they’ve restricted several areas since.

Besides the fact that Snapchat uses an app example, this ad format doesn’t seem to have much potential for app developers. It seems more useful for retailers, brands or to add a cool thing to an event. Here is an infographic with some tips on using Geofilters.

Sponsored Lenses

Hope you’re ready to break the bank for this one.

You must have seen the lenses on Snapchat before: they have “selfie lenses” and now also “world lenses”.

With Sponsored Lenses Snapchat lets advertisers offer Lenses to their users. Users activate the “branded” Lenses just like any other Lenses, by pressing and holding on their face in the app (selfie mode).


Snapchat ads are still in the early days.

For now, there is no “self-serve” platform like for Facebook or Instagram ads. And several agencies and brands report that it can be hard to track and measure performance.

It is also a platform where creatives are different: you can not re-use your TV campaign or even your Facebook ads as they are. You need to fit in. Approval times for creatives are apparently still quite long, especially for Sponsored Lenses.

Judging by how hard it is to find Snap ads for mobile app campaigns in the app (we tried – a lot), there are not many of those yet. But when they start popping up they might be one of the most interesting format: tracking installs (and then engagement within the app) is less challenging than evaluating the effect of branding videos.

To view more app promotion tips:

Top 6 Mobile Gaming Trends-How to Dig Out the Opportunity in app markets in 2021

The New Experience Economy: How Ecommerce Brands Can Thrive in the Future of Retail