'I'm not a 14-year-old': How 5 agency Gen X'ers Snapchat

Send multiple snaps in a day. Get at least 150 views on each story. Indulge in “streaks” and win trophies. These are just a few rookie moves straight from the teen Snapchat playbook. Not that you’d know it from peeking at the accounts of middle-aged ad agency execs, who, well, don’t quite get it.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. They may perhaps never match the millennial zeal for the ephemeral platform, but Gen X-ers in the advertising industry are dabbling in Snapchat more actively than before — for work, play and sometimes a mix of both.

Here’s a tour of the Snapchat handles of five agency execs:

Brad Kay, partner and president, SS+K
IMG_0123Kay initially joined Snapchat so he could communicate with his 14-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, in a more fun way. He’s not quite sure if that’s worked, because he still gets lampooned by his daughter for not quite nailing it. For Kay, Snapchat is a respite from a world that often feels “far too choreographed, an antidote to a highly polished social media profile.” So his personal Snapchat handle (bradkay18) provides insight into his daily life — whether it’s little glimpses of his office, snippets from his vacations or just warm moments with his wife and three kids.

“I’ve always been curious about new platforms, to see how they work and to figure out what the appeal is for our clients and marketers,” he said. “I’m still experimenting and still learning.”

Jason Peterson, chief creative officer, Havas Chicago
IMG_0125With nearly 16,000 followers on Twitter and over 714,000 followers on Instagram, Peterson is somewhat of a social media rockstar in the agency world. Still, he admits Snapchat made him feel uneasy initially and he didn’t get why everyone was talking about it. Today, he claims he is “obsessed” with it and uses his handle (jasonmpeterson) to further his “narrative of Jason M. Peterson, the creative,” giving behind-the-scenes tutorials. He’s even reached out to Snapchat itself to have it teach him a trick or two — and will also be getting his own custom geofilter sanctioned by the platform soon.

“We talk about innovation, but we are so slow to embrace it,” he said. “All it takes is 10 minutes to immerse yourself in it and figure it out.”

Jon Haber, co-founder, Giant Spoon
Image-2At 36, Haber is closer in age to millennials. But that did not make the Snapchat interface more intuitive when he started experimenting with his handle (jhaber2000) about a year ago. He acknowledges relying on his younger colleagues to figure it out from time to time, and he admits that it is still hard for him to completely let his guard down and let everyone in on his life at a more personal and intimate level. Most of his friends who don’t work in advertising are not on the platform because “they don’t have the pressure of being cool,” he said.

“I’ll post nonsense about my dogs and anything strange and out of the ordinary I see,” he said. “But this morning I posted a photo from my bed and felt very strange about it — not something a teen would bat an eye about.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO and co-founder, VaynerMedia
IMG_0127Snapchat is just another channel for Vaynerchuk (GaryVee) to project his carefully curated image as a media honcho, investor, author and wine connoisseur. So if you’re looking for an “inside peek” into his personal life, you might be disappointed. Blame that on a pact he has with his wife, in which they’ve pledged to “emphatically keep their family life very private.” What you will see instead is him documenting his “entrepreneurial journey”: a look into boardrooms and selfies while shuttling across airports, all peppered with random thoughts and sightings, like someone wearing a bizarre outfit, for instance.

“It’s not my reality show, and I’m not on it to be a 14-year-old,” he said. “I’m looking at it from a business lens and trying to figure it out so that I can use it to help my clients.”

Patricia Korth McDonnell, chief marketing officer, Huge Los Angeles
McDonnell, who is 36 years old herself, joined Snapchat for work — and also because many of her younger friends had embraced it. That’s not to say she’s got it all figured out: It was only over the course of talking to Digiday for this article that she discovered Snapchat users have handles and scores. The intimacy of the platform does not bother her, as she restricts her followers to her closest friends only. She also sends more one-on-one snaps rather than posting stories, markedly different from the rest of her agency colleagues.

“I like that it’s so low-fi and banal; it’s not ‘scrapbookable,’ but it’s still shareable,” she said. “I wouldn’t post a video of my 3-year-old daughter throwing a fit on Instagram, but I’m comfortable sending that to a few friends through snaps.”