Unfazed by rival copycats, ambitious Snapchat has big plans for Australia in 2019. We caught up with its general manager AUNZ Kathryn Carter to see how the business is tracking after three years Down Under.
Multimedia messaging app Snapchat may have been founded in the US in 2011, but it didn’t officially burst onto the Australian scene until just three years ago.
After a global hunt, Kathryn Carter was appointed as GM and the Sydney–based team has since swelled to 40.
Like many other messaging apps, Snapchat has had its ups and downs, with grumbles about app redesigns riling users, including a batch of Snap–loving celebrities publicly moaning.
A notable high last month saw record Q4 revenue of US$390 million. Figures also showed it was no longer losing users — sitting pretty with a now stable 186 million daily users — which sent share prices soaring by 20%.
To tap into the valuable millennial audience, brands such as Cadbury, KFC, CommBank, and Oak, were quick to dabble with the platform to target their highly sought after younger audiences and it wasn’t long before the likes of McDonald’s, 7Eleven, Fanta and more followed.
With moves to reduce ad buying friction, plans to invest deeper into augmented reality (AR) tools, and a mission to continue to educate the market, Carter has been making steady progress when it comes to cementing Snapchat's offering in Australia, particularly with features such as Stories and AR, which Facebook later replicated.
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However, Carter told AdNews that she isn’t threatened by the social media giant copying its format, taking the view that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
“Imitation suggests we have a really solid understanding of what our audience wants and the innovation,” Carter said.
“The product and design that the engineering team worked so tirelessly on have now been embraced by our peers and become industry standard.
“We’re pleased the industry is recognising the demand for the Stories and the benefit of a cool video.”
Carter, who has previously worked at News Corp, MediaCom and Fairfax, is happy with the level of engagement from Snapchat’s audience, particulary after the fourth quarter earnings report showed its user base has stabilised.
Having been with the company since 2016, Carter has the unique insight of watching a global business change from within.
From Stories, Filters, redesigns and maps, the once simple platform has been tacking on new features and looks that are vastly different from when it first launched.
Snapchat counts local advertisers as McDonald’s, Amazon, Hayu, and Peter’s Ice Cream, and it’s been able to better engage ad buyers over time. Carter counts its most significant investment as changes to how it allows advertisers access its inventory.
Currently, advertisers can insert ads between Stories, place ads on the Discovery page, sponsored Filters, and create AR Lenses. Moving from an IO–based business to a auction–based environment has sped up efficiency for advertisers, increased transparency and removed friction.
“A key result of this move is that we’ve been able to scale the number of clients, campaigns and advertisers that we’re working with in a pretty short amount of time,” Carter said.
As for Snapchat's products, she highlighted AR as fundamental to the business since its inception and revealed it has plans to take the tool further.
“We’ve developed a really deep understanding of what works well from an AR perspective,” Carter said.
“Now, we’re excited to move AR from being just a pure brand play to being a VR play as well. In the past, brands were able to use AR to launch a product, now brands can both launch a product, but then add in a ‘buy now’ function so they can directly track it from a sales perspective as well.
“This connection of AR, being not just an innovation play or a novelty play, but being a really significant driver of business results, is what will set it up for long–term success.”
The 'feel good' app
The transient nature of the platform seems to safeguard it from public concerns about privacy, unlike its rival Facebook. And despite Kylie Jenner and Maybelline tweeting they’ve turned away from the app following its redesign, Carter said these concerns are in the past, adding it now shares “harmonious” relationships with everyone.
A study Snapchat commissioned with the research and educational centre, Murphy Institute, found that people view Snapchat as the “feel good app”, Carter said.
“The notion of being playful, spontaneous, talking to your close friends, was something that resonated really strongly among Australians, which was exciting,” she explained.
“You’re much more comfortable sharing your day–to–day life with your close friends via Snapchat because of the ephemeral nature of the platform.
“You know that it is not a broadcast medium where it’s going out to hundreds of thousands of people — it’s going to the people in your life who you choose to share that moment with.”
Speaking about the challenges ahead, Carter outlined her biggest priority in Australia is educating the local market about how Snapchat can drive results for businesses, and correct the gap between perception and reality.
“We have a fantastic offering from a local perspective, with a really strong, engaged and growing audience and making sure advertisers and agencies are across, informed, aware and excited by the opportunities that the platform brings is a priority,” Carter said. ￼
In addition to Carter, we catch-up with other team members:
Sales lead, direct Ted Shelton:
What does a day at Snap look like for you?
My days are built around my two most important priorities, business success for our clients and the happiness and growth of our team. I’m fortunate to work with a group of clients who really understand what a powerful tool Snap is for driving consumer action, whether that be product purchase or App Install, and I'm extremely grateful to work with such a kind and talented team.
How have you spent the last 10 years of your career?
The last decade of my career has been spent building advertising teams for tech businesses, from my first sales role in Barcelona to my current, and most enjoyable role here at Snap. I’ve also managed to mix in a couple of extended breaks into that time to travel, learn new skills, and spend time with family, which I’ve always found has given me a renewed energy for the next challenge.
What’s the key skill a sales lead needs?
I think that everyone has their own style and I’m a big believer that being authentic in your approach is a really important part of being a leader. I like to lead from the front, keep things simple, and try to stay as humble and as curious as possible.
Sales lead, agency Matthew Coote:
What’s the most exciting part of your role?
Without a doubt, it would be working with our very talented team. We are very fortunate that people are interested and intrigued about Snap, which has allowed us to recruit some of the best talent from across the advertising industry.
What attracted you to Snap?
There were two things that attracted me to Snap. The opportunity that comes with being part of a global company and the opportunity of being part of the team that started and built up Snap in Australia. It is something to this day that I am very proud of.
Is there anything that surprised you about working at Snap?
I’ve been both surprised and impressed at just how fast the company moves, adapts and innovates. It is an exciting environment that I love working in.
Account management lead Max Palmer:
What’s the most challenging part of your role?
Looking at the wider landscape. We’re a relatively new publisher in our market, so one of the biggest challenges for us is educating clients on our offering. We’ve been in the market for almost three years now and the pace with which we’re innovating is sensational. With that comes the need to keep agencies and clients alike, up–to–date with the products available to them in order to meet their KPIs.
What’s been your biggest achievement at Snap?
Moving into a lead role, you measure your success on the performance of your team. The success we’ve had as a business is a testament to the development of the team and the results they’ve helped our clients achieve. Personally, it’s been great to see some of the strategies I’ve implemented to bridge the gap between our global business internally, play a part in this success.
Senior account executive Danni Hudson:
As Snap’s first employee in Australia, what lessons have you learnt from being part of a growing and evolving company?
To be part of a growing business you need to have the mentality and energy of an entrepreneur. Since I joined, we have continued to grow at a rapid pace, which has required us all to be adaptable, dynamic, and very comfortable with change.
What’s the most challenging part of your role?
We are still educating brands on how and what they should be doing on the platform. There isn’t a one–size–fits–all strategy, so we’re helping brands navigate and understand how they can best connect with their consumers in the most effective and efficient way.
What surprised you about working at Snap?
The people. Our offices are full of people who are smart, creative, and always looking out for each other. It’s cliché, but we really do live by the ethos of one team, one dream.
Creative strategist Tolga Balabaner:
What does an average day for a creative strategist at Snap look like?
Fast–paced, mentally challenging, equally rewarding and without a doubt, always inspiring. If we’re not at client briefings or responding to client briefs, we’ll be hosting creative strategy workshops, presenting new tech updates, or doing hands–on sessions with Snapchat’s Lens Studio tool for AR.
What’s a misconception people have about your job?
That I spend my days dreaming up puppy dog AR lenses … it’s only 90% of the day. As a creative strategist, I have a very healthy balance of creative thinking and strategic support with brands big and small across all sectors.
What’s the most exciting part of your role?
Innovation gets thrown around a lot in our industry. Unfortunately, most of it is nonsense. When I look back at the products we’ve launched in the two and a half years I’ve been at Snap, it actually blows my mind. In 2019, we’re going to continue to blow everyone else’s mind, specifically with the Snapchat camera.
What do you wish brands understood about using Snap?
It’s the most creative way to communicate. A lot of platforms provide a canvas for a brilliant idea to sit in, whereas on Snap we have creative tools like Lens and Filters to help manifest an idea. Don’t take my word for it, google Snaplications or A/R Jordan.
See more Meet the Team profiles here.
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