How Snapchat’s Sponsored Lens For The Peanuts Movie Was Born
Avatar Labs, an L.A.-based creative agency, had about two weeks to come up with a design that would respect a venerable brand and resonate with the Snapchat audience.
In retrospect, the choice was obvious. Of course, the stream of candy corn should flow into Snapchatters’ mouths rather than be spewed out in a vomitous flow.
But in the heat of the discussion about designing the first Sponsored Lens to promote “The Peanuts Movie,” all angles were considered. Avatar Labs, the Los Angeles-based agency hired by Fox Studios, had a tight window to come up with a design for a new advertising format, and expectations were high.
“Peanuts is a marquee property for Fox, so there were a lot of eyes on this,” Avatar Labs’ vice president of client services Jason Steinberg told Marketing Land. “Snapchat also had equally lofty expectations and we as a creative agency also wanted to really demonstrate our best work. And on top of that, the decision making that really mattered was the Snapchat audience. How do we do something that’s fun and compelling and really engaging for them?”
Marketers of all stripes are scrambling after the Snapchat audience, a tantalizing target of 100 million people who open the mobile app every day and happen to be very young. Snapchat says 60 percent of smartphone users in the US between 13 and 34 are Snapchatters. It’s a demographic known to be resistant to traditional marketing, so Snapchat is tinkering with various ways to help brands engage creatively, without resorting to targeted advertising.
The latest is Sponsored Lenses, which is a paid version of a playful feature Snapchat rolled out several months ago. Lenses give users the ability to overlay selfies with animated effects like crazy eyeballs, funhouse mirror-like distortions and, most popularly, a rainbow colored stream of vomit. Snapchat is regularly adding new lenses and eliminating others to keep Snapchat users surprised and engaged, and they are proving very popular. Snapchat says Lenses are used on more than 10 million snaps a day. Last week, the company gave people the ability to purchase and save favorite Lenses for 99 cents each.
Fox paid significantly more than 99 cents. Snapchat hasn’t released how much it charges for a Sponsored Lens, but multiple reports put the price at up to $750,000 for a prime holiday activation like the one Fox bought on Halloween.
The Design Challenge
When Fox came to Avatar Labs with the Peanuts job several weeks before the Halloween deadline, the L.A.-based creative agency immediately went into brainstorm mode. Typically, the firm — which counts as clients all the major Hollywood studios, broadcasters and cable networks — will pass along several ideas to clients when it’s working with an ad unit it is familiar with. In this case, Steinberg said, it was closer to 50.
More options were necessary because of all the variables in play. Fox wanted something that would connect with the Snapchat audience in a way that remained respectful of the venerable Peanuts brand. Avatar Labs had to work within the design constraints of the Snapchat template, making sure that the overlay elements didn’t cover up too much of the Snapchatters’ selfies. Add to that the complexity of working with facial expressions that trigger special effects.
“Those triggers are raised eyebrows, open mouth or kissy face,” said Ray Contreras, Avatar Labs’ senior art director. “And so trying to figure out what works with the brand, what will resonate with the Snapchat audience and then how do you incorporate one of those three facial emotions. It’s a unique marketing challenge.”
And it turned out that the candy corn conundrum was among the biggest challenges. There was no way Avatar Labs was going to pass up the opportunity to play off one of Snapchat’s most popular Lenses, but how best to do that?
“We wanted to take advantage of that but is it great to be having people vomiting out candy corn?” Steinberg said. “Or do people want to be eating candy corn? And how thick should that river of candy corn be? First we had it as a trickle and Fox was like, ‘No. It should be flowing.’”
In the end, the Peanuts Lens was released on Halloween and gave Snapchat users the ability to overlay their posts with Peanuts characters for 24 hours, a week before the movie’s release. It’s hard to say whether the Snapchat marketing contributed to the movie’s strong opening, and because of the ephemeral nature of Snapchat posts, the evidence of marketing on the network doesn’t last, but you can see that the Lenses were popular based on the many tweets of joy from Peanuts fans.
Avatar Labs, which created two sponsored Peanuts geofilters that also appeared on Halloween, believes it scored a winner.
“One of the things that is great about these Lenses is the element of serendipity,” Steinberg said. “Snapchat is always introducing new things to be discovered and this was another one of these Easter-egg treats that people enjoy. And then when they found out they could interact with Snoopy and have him dance with you and have Woodstock on your head, that was just a real treat that resonated across the board. There were young audiences learning about the brand for the first time and old audiences who got to interact with beloved characters in a new way.
“People just love being next to those great characters.”
Snapchat has not released another Sponsored Lens since Halloween, but Steinberg said Avatar Labs clients are clamoring to get into the action.
“We can’t speak to that directly but I can safely say that all of our major studio clients are interested in speaking with us about it,” Steinberg said. “In fact when it was revealed that Fox was the first, we heard a universal groan across all of our other clients.”