Over the weekend, Snapchat released a bold new commercial to get people talking. The only problem? It seems to have gotten them talking for all the wrong reasons.
In the 60-second clip posted on Twitter on Jan. 27, Snapchat poses an interesting question: “What if our eyes could see more?” Then, it directs viewers to open their Snapchat app and use the camera to start “exploring the unseen world” around them.
The ad begins with the image of a red-haired girl sitting in a subway car while using her smartphone. Presumably, she’s using Snapchat, but things get a little weird as the camera closes in.
First, she smiles somewhat eerily, and as the camera zooms into her eye, we see that her iris suddenly looks exactly like the Snapchat icon. We pass through it to enter a new world where everyone’s faces are one of Snapchat’s trademark filters.
We’re talking people with giant horse heads, googly eyes, extra long tongues and even some who appear to be half-dog, half-human.
And while most of these filters look hilarious within the Snapchat app itself, there’s something about the commercial that doesn’t strike the same tone. At least, not for most viewers.
“That was absolutely horrifying,” tweeted one person.
“I want my eyes to unsee that,” added another.
“Snapchat yall arent doing well,” someone else declared.
Multiple people called it “creepy” and more or less unwatchable. Others were merely confused as to what it was trying to achieve.
But not everyone has been hating on the commercial. In fact, one Twitter user pointed out that the ad spot is actually pretty innovative, utilizing elements of augmented reality to connect with its users in a whole new way.
“Did y’all find the @Snapchat secret sweatshirt?” one person tweeted. “Here’s how! You unlock it on their newest commercial! I LOVE the innovation around this and that the audience can be a part of it @SnapAR.”
Augmented reality (commonly known as AR) is “the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements integrated with real-world objects,” according to Gartner.com. “It is this ‘real world’ element that differentiates AR from virtual reality. AR integrates and adds value to the user’s interaction with the real world, versus a simulation.”
Translation? It’s all that fun stuff you’ve been using Snap for, like applying anime filters, crying faces and vomiting rainbows to your photos and videos.
The new commercial showcases many of the AR elements users already know and love, with a few hidden twists. And since you use it in conjunction with the app, you can only really enjoy the full extent of it by watching through the Snapchat lens. Once you do, you’ll see things that the naked eye would otherwise miss. It’s all part of Snapchat’s new ad campaign, “First Commercial,” which launched last year to promote the AR features.
According to a recent statement from the brand:
“At Snap, we celebrate the joy, irreverence, and spontaneity of communicating with your real friends in fun, unexpected ways. Over the years, we’ve pushed the boundaries of how people see and experience the world through augmented reality. AR makes conversations and experiences better, and unlocks new ways to connect with others, learn about the world, shop, and more. [Our new campaign] shows you what it’s like to see the world the way Snapchatters do.”
If you’ve been following the latest tech news over the past few months, it’s no secret that Snapchat has been trying to up its marketing game and expand its user base to become more profitable.
A leaked memo written by Snap CEO Evan Spiegel warned employees in September 2022 that the company needed to pivot its strategy to keep up with a shifting economy and user drop-off. At the same time, it needs to increase revenue.
“We saw challenges on the horizon, and hedged our bets accordingly, but still got punched in the face hard by 2022’s new economic reality,” Spiegel wrote in the memo, which The Verge obtained. “We have decisively entered a new era, and we must adapt and overcome to succeed in this new reality.”
Hence, Snap is now exploring new ways to attract users — though not everyone agrees it’ll be successful. There’s a lot of talk about why expanding Snap’s user base (especially through traditional commercials) may not be the way to go.
For one thing, the app tends to skew toward a younger audience, which is why its original user base (millennials) has mostly moved on, leaving it for Gen-Z to discover.
In response to the latest commercial, many Twitter users expressed confusion and concern that grown adults would still be using the app.
That said, the users that Snap has captured seem to love the AR features. In fact, according to Social Media Today, the app currently pulls in about 347 million daily active users, and 72% of them engage with these AR elements.
As for whether or not the brand can significantly boost its revenue this year, time will tell.
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