Snapchat video ads: a first look into app install creatives

Given how fast Snapchat has been growing, everybody knew that Snapchat ads would come.

Snapchat is a fun platform used heavily by Millenials. So why let Facebook, Twitter and Google get all the mobile app install ads revenue?

Let’s take a quick look at why Snapchat can/will be appealing to mobile app publishers, and take a first look at best practices when creating Snapchat video ads (“Snap ads”).

Why Snapchat ads have potential

Snapchat might be great to advertise your app.

It is growing (fast) all around the world. And the platform is great at differentiating itself from the rest of the social media crowd.

Snapchat is becoming the destination of choice for communicating with friends and sharing your life. Especially amongst Millenials, even though about half of new users in the U.S. are above 25.

Snapchat Audience by age group
(data source Nov 2016: Snapchat via Digiday)

With the possibility to target with location, age, gender, mobile network, device or OS and the type of content users engage with on Snapchat, the platform is becoming quite attractive to advertisers. Snapchat keeps improving it, adding recently lookalike audiences and email database matching.

For Snap Ads (see below), Snapchat even allows A/B testing.

What about the results? Well, it still seems to be a challenge to track and measure performance.

Of course, Snapchat’s data and several first case studies indicate good results:

  • The Acorn mobile app talks about a 40% higher install rate than on Facebook, even if coming at a higher price for now.
  • Snapchat say they see advertisers getting 5x higher click-through (swipe-through, really) rate than other platforms.

The different formats of Snapchat ads

Here are currently the 3 Snapchat ad formats (more details and examples here):

  • Sponsored geofilters – now available to anyone, sponsored geofilters allow you to create a filter for a geographic zone.
  • Sponsored lenses – this format apparently gets quite expensive, which is understandable since Snapchat creates a custom branded lense that users can activate along the other lenses in the app.
  • Snap Ads (Snapchat video ads) – our personal favorite, of course. Snap ads are vertical full screen videos of 10s. They are displayed between Snaps when watching Discover and Live content, as well as between users when watching your friends’ Stories.
    A Snap Ad can be just that 10s video, or can be an Interactive Ad that lets users swipe up to watch a longer video, read an article, access a mobile website or install an app.
    Snapchat currently uses a Cost Per View model, charging advertisers as soon as the video ad starts.
Snapchat app install
This is how the app page appears after you swipe up on the Ad – thanks to An Vu for capturing this.

How do Snap ads (Snapchat video ads) look?

Let’s take a look at a Snapchat video ad example. This example was the first app-install ad, ran in February 2016.

Anatomy of a Snap video ad for app installsWe haven’t been able to record a mobile app install ad on Snapchat just yet, so let’s take a look at another interactive ad (displayed when watching Discover content).

As you can see, when we swipe up we get access to additional content. Without leaving the Snapchat app. This replicates how users interact with Snaps in Discover, which should make it a pretty performing format.

It’s also interesting to note that a lot of the Snap Ads run in loop, and users are required to tap to go past it.

In the Cookie Jam visual above, the Call To Action is “App Store” which seems very neutral and generic. I would think that this CTA will be (has already been?) changed to something like “Install App”, “Play Game”, etc. Like it is for Instagram and Facebook ads.

Anyway, now that we’ve seen how those Snap ads for app installs look let’s talk about expected best practices for Snapchat advertising.

How to create great Snapchat video ads?

Snapchat app-install ads are quite rare so far. So rare that we haven’t been able to record an example for you yet (if you spot some, take a screenshot or record your screen and let me know -> @sylvainww).

But this doesn’t prevent from analyzing how the platform is used, what the current Snap ads look like and giving you recommendations on those video creatives.

So that when you do decide to give it a try, you know how to get started!

Want us to take a look at your app and send you a free script and our recommendations for your Snapchat video ad? Contact us here.

Make sure you fit in…

Snapchat is a fun and young platform. It’s a community that has its own style and language (leaning more towards the Urban Dictionary kind).

Just like if you planned to start using the platform for marketing and were creating Stories (read: not advertising, “just” creating content), you need to understand how people use the app.

You want to use Snapchat yourself, at least enough to get a good sense for the type of content created as well as the trends. See what kind of content other brands and your competitors produce, too.

Here are some interesting tips and ideas by Trackmaven in their Snapchat guide:

Snapchat guide and tips

Those are not must-dos, but can help in creating unique, adapted and performing ads. Regarding the first-person perspective, this is something not really applied in the Snap ads we’ve seen. But most situations are filmed quite closely.

Here is another good resources on Snapchat marketing.

Of course at Apptamin we’ve started playing/working with the format. Below a Snapchat ad we’ve produced for the i-wantit app (contact us if you’re interested in discussing a project).

…But stay true to yourself

Stay authentic.

If you’re advertising your app or game on Snapchat, it means that’s where your audience is.

And you should optimize/adapt your video creatives. But you still want to stay on brand: once they swipe to see your app, they need to see something that’s consistent with the ad they just watched.

Embrace vertical content

Vertical video is getting bigger and bigger, including in advertising.

Being vertical video ads, Snap ads require you to embrace the portrait orientation. Deal with it!

Interestingly this is an opportunity for mobile app publishers and startups: big brands are not that used to this format, and creating content (and getting it approved) might be more challenging. Being smaller can make it easier for you to experiment with different video ad formats, including the vertical one.

So when shooting live action video for Snapchat ads, plan for vertical. With motion graphics or showing your app.

Mobile games and apps in portrait mode may have an advantage here, as it’s easier to show your UI or some gameplay. But it doesn’t prevent the landscape ones to leverage the format:

This might require more shots and a very dynamic montage, which luckily is also something we advise.

Make it dynamic

Of course, you have to keep it short.

10s is not much to get your point across, and that’s part of what makes it so interesting for advertising.

How to do it? Whether you’re using live action video or motion graphics, don’t hesitate to have very short cuts.

Don’t create something that could cause epilepsy, but it needs to be dynamic. The Watch Dogs example above is good, and the movie trailer below is great (it starts with the question: “How was your weekend?” – not shown in the recording).

Leverage sound and music

Snapchat has its own style and because in a lot of Snaps the sound plays an important role (especially when sharing your life in Stories), you should leverage it.

It can be using dialog, a catchy and dynamic soundtrack or even sound effects.

Having the right audio in your Snapchat video ad should also help you get your point across in such a short video.

Show your app

You can have some narrative of course, but make sure viewers get to see your app in action. At least in a few shots.

It will help them have a better understanding of what your app is, and set the right expectations.

You have specific characters for your game, or unique design assets in your app? Try showing them off!

Add captions and overlays

Yes, you have sound in Snap ads. But Snap ads are not TV ads.

Snapchat video ads are viewed on mobile, and like Facebook ads and Instagram ads they should also be easy to follow without sound.

Plus, their short length forces you to get your point across faster.

And that’s where the style of Snaps comes in handy. Your Snapchat video ads can and should be “flashy” to some extent, taking advantage of stickers or drawings over the images.

When adding text or drawings, keep contrasts in mind. Make sure everything is easily readable, especially since each shot/scene of your video doesn’t stay long on the screen. And that nothing blocks the focus of the video.

Here is the initial video for Cookie Jam:

And the Snap Ad one (see how they’ve added a floating and animated logo? Fits in perfectly on Snapchat):

Cookie Jam Snapchat video ad

Add branding

So don’t hesitate to show your brand, even early in the video. And have fun with it, it doesn’t need to be “boringly” in the corner of the screen.

The overlay thing mentioned above makes Snapchat great for that.

Lipton did a good job as well:

Always be testing

You’ll pretty much see this advice on all our content about video creatives.

Our recommendations and best practices are a good start to get going. But in the end, it will be the performance of the ads that matters: which video ads get the most engagement, get you the best install rates and the most engaged users.

So don’t hesitate to create different versions, highlighting different parts of gameplay or content from your app. Or going further, with different narrative angles.


In conclusion, here is how to make great video creatives for Snap ads:

  • Make sure you fit in
  • Stay true to yourself
  • Embrace the vertical format
  • Make it dynamic
  • Leverage sound and music
  • Add captions and overlays
  • Show your app
  • Add branding
  • Test and experiment!

How to get started?

Right now, you would still need to go through a third-party ad partner to start advertising on Snapchat. Want us to help you with video creatives? Contact us today!

But the great news is: Snapchat is building a self-serve ad tool for Snap Ads (geofilters can already be created by anyone). This definitely is needed to be able to compete through Facebook and Google.

As Snapchat seems kin on reviewing and approving Snap ads for quality, don’t hesitate to start thinking of your creatives for when they make advertising easier to game studios and startups. 

Sylvain Gauchet

Hi there, I'm Sylvain and I'm one of the co-founders of Apptamin. Apptamin is a creative agency specialized in app videos (video ads, app store videos, etc.) where we find engaging ways to present mobile apps and games so our clients can either increase their conversion rates or improve their user acquisition.

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