Ghosting: As Snap’s stock collapses and more users go to Instagram, advertisers and publishers share what’s left of Snapchat

Snap’s stock reflects a collapse. On Oct. 26, the day after its third-quarter of 2018 earnings, the price fell to $6 per share, far from its peak of $27 from the day it began trading on the NYSE. But the stock doesn’t tell the full story.

At Cannes 2017, a giant yellow Ferris wheel mesmerized advertisers. But for one agency executive, looking back, it was “symbolic of them being full of themselves. All of the sudden Snapchat woke up. We were like you were too cool and wouldn’t have a meeting with me two years ago. Well, there’s a bigger, better option now.”

Since Instagram copied Stories, Snapchat has struggled with a perception problem. Some users have decreased their frequency of use or abandoned the app. In February, shortly after Snap’s big redesign, Kylie Jenner tweeted, “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” In June, Instagram Stories reached twice as many daily active users than Snapchat. Snap was sinking. Ironically, that Ferris wheel at Cannes was previously conceived as a yellow submarine, a publishing executive in attendance says. A Snap spokesperson denied that to be true.

But not all has vanished at Snapchat. More media companies are publishing on the app and seeing better engagement than other platforms. More advertisers are experimenting with new formats, and while they may not be investing more dollars, they haven’t given up. And while many executives have left Snap over the last year such as advertising lead Imran Khan and content head Nick Bell, new hires — notably from Amazon — could help the company.

Snapchat Discover, the app’s publishing platform, has grown from 11 media outlets in January 2015 to now more than 100. It looks overcrowded, compared to how it used to be, and is quite full of tabloid-esque content. But new partners are finding success. WorldStarHipHop debut on Snapchat in September and touts hundreds of millions of opens per month. A poll on a recent edition received 400,000 votes.

“There’s nothing we see that has this level of fan commitment and fan engagement on the internet, period. On Instagram and YouTube, you literally compete with all the world’s information. You are in a foot race with humanity, and the algorithm doesn’t care if you have the Super Bowl,” says Reza Izad, CEO of Studio71, which manages the channel.

Culture Trip joined Discover in October as part of Snapchat expanding Shows, its TV-like product, to the U.K. To start, the publisher is reformatting its series Hungerlust rather than invest in something exclusive for the platform. The goal is “brand awareness,” especially in the U.S, says Mike Fox, CMO of Culture Trip.

“I have a lot of empathy [for Snapchat]. They’re in a similar phase to when I was at Facebook. They’re trying to build the platform. What I’d like to see them do is evolve where the partnerships are deep and more two-way where we can drive traffic from Snapchat into other experiences,” says Fox, who was director of marketing at Facebook from 2009 to 2014.

At some agencies, clients have stopped asking about Snapchat. But large agencies have seen many clients continue to invest. Jenny Lang, svp, managing partner of integrated investment at UM Worldwide, says her clients have been interested in Snapchat’s unskippable ad format and swipe-up to view a trailer.

While Snapchat has a reputation for attracting millennials and Gen Z, the young parent demo has interest in entertainment and CPG brands, Lang says. New targeting capabilities from Nielsen helps these clients link actual consumer purchase data.

“If your budget is limited you might just be going to the highest reach which is obviously Facebook, YouTube. But with our larger clients who want to be innovative, want to extend their reach, we recommend Snapchat. Nobody’s saying I’m going to blow up on Snapchat this year, but they keep trying with it,” Lang says.

Turnover at Snap has been a black mark for the company. In the last year, Snap’s chief financial officer, chief strategy officer, vp of product and vp of content have resigned — to name a few. Kristen O’Hara, vp of U.S. global business solutions, left after an offer for her to become chief business officer was rescinded. It wasn’t a good look for Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, but advertisers say hiring Jeremi Gorman, former lead of Amazon’s ad sales, is a smart choice for the time being.

“It used to be that everyone wanted people from Google and Apple. Now everyone wants people from Amazon. She isn’t gonna stay that for long unless some miracle happens,” an advertising executive says.

The pressure around Snapchat, including the threat of Instagram, begs the question: Will Snapchat stay independent? When Andrew Ross Sorkin asked what it would take to sell during The New York Times’ Dealbook conference on Nov. 1, Spiegel paused for 5 seconds and then said, “I’d have to talk to [my cofounder] Bobby about that one. I think for us we have a real belief in what we’re trying to accomplish. We believe it’s fundamentally different than what we’re seeing in the world.”

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