Instagram continues to squash Snapchat in size with now twice as many people using its copycat Stories feature every day. But it’s not all bad for the messaging app. Some media buyers have noticed that while ad rates on Instagram Stories have soared along with its popularity, Snapchat ad prices have dropped.

“Essentially, the best thing is super, super, super cheap CPMs: $1.88 on Snapchat vs. $14 to $17 on Facebook and $19 on Instagram,” said David Herrmann, director of advertising at Social Outlier. “It’s not perfect yet, but getting a 1.2 percent [conversion rate] on a CPM of $1.88 is pretty great.”

Jon Morgenstern, vp, paid media at VaynerMedia, said his agency has seen Instagram pricing soar over the past few months with a surge of spending on its Stories format.

“Instagram Stories’ CPM went from being something more comparable to Snap to more Instagram core feed. That’s good news for Snap. Snap now has the more efficient pricing narrative,” Morgenstern said.

Not long ago, creatives despised Snap’s vertical-only format. Buyers groaned over the lack of targeting. While brands craved its Gen Z demographic, Snapchat’s audience was prone to skipping ads. Yet these days, Snapchat has been providing a solid return on investment.

“It’s funny because right now the CPMs are so cheap that even if something quote-un-quote ‘doesn’t work,’ it was so cheap to get it up,” said Antonia Rubell, digital marketing associate manager at ThirdLove, an underwear brand.

Brooks LeComte, customer insights manager at personal safety app Noonlight, said cost-per-install rates are cheap, adding that campaigns focused on cost per impression have still been high.

Beyond the cheap prices, Snap is appealing to advertisers with new measurement tools. Snap recently expanded access to Pixel, added Pixel-supported targeting for conversions, conversion-lift studies for web and in-app sales and return on advertising spend reporting to self-serve, the company announced last month.

Snapchat’s “two biggest areas of improvement are targeting and measurement. Before, it was a blunt placement, there were limited parameters, and you just reached a lot of people with the same message a lot of times,” said Aaron Goldman, chief marketing officer at 4C Insights.

For targeting, Snapchat has gotten some edge over Facebook over the past few months, media buyers said. In the wake of General Data Protection Regulation and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook removed the native support for third-party data firms like DataLogic and Acxiom via its Partner Categories program. Meanwhile, Snapchat has kept its support.

“More friction has been added to the Facebook process. It’s certainly not hurt Snapchat,” Morgenstern said. 

For measurement, Rubell said ThirdLove paused its spending on Snapchat until the company released Snap Pixel, a conversion-tracking tool. ThirdLove became a beta partner of Snap Pixel, and Rubell said since then, Snapchat’s cost per acquisition has been about 50 percent lower than Facebook and Instagram.

Snapchat also has made its ad platform more intuitive, media buyers said. Indeed, Snapchat reported last quarter that 95 percent of Snap Ads (excluding Story Ads) are served programmatically. Snapchat is testing a reach and frequency tool to help with media buys.

“It’s actually impressive where [Snap’s ad] product is right now: AR lens studio, measurement, viewability, a brand-safety focus very early on,” said an account director at a top global agency. “The ad product is fairly easy to use. Anyone disagreeing is asinine.”

But lower ad rates aren’t everything if advertisers can’t scale on Snapchat as they can on other platforms due to its far smaller user base. Terry Whalen, CEO of Sum Digital, said that for one client, he currently spends about $2,000 per day on Snapchat versus $30,000 to $50,000 on Facebook and Instagram.

“It’s not apples to apples when you’re looking to CPAs,” Whalen said. Snapchat could be “kind of like how it was with Pinterest two or three years ago. We got pretty heavy into Pinterest, and then fast forward, we spend $0 there because it never continued to improve the interface.”

The price for Snapchat’s original vertical video ads may have come down, but the platform is still pushing for marketers to create more expensive AR ads. According to Standard Media Index, 67 percent of Snapchat’s advertising revenue in May 2018 came from Snap Ads and 15 percent from lenses.

Goldman of 4C Insights said on July 6 he hoped Facebook would copy more Snapchat features, specifically when it came to AR ads, because that would increase their inventory across platforms and make it more efficient to use the ad format. In fact, Facebook recently did just that. On July 10, Facebook announced AR ads in News Feed. The feature is available to U.S. users at launch and is focused on shopping.

“It feels like the early days of Snap Ads where people don’t have this creative sitting around. They’re going to have to invest and build it. It’s cool, it’s new, it’s immersive, but it has to be worth their while,” Goldman said. “It’s not what Evan Spiegel wants, but I would love someone else to copy that.”

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