Inside Snap's exclusive program aimed at helping some of its biggest brand clients stay ahead of the curve on augmented reality


  • Snapchat has an exclusive program to help keep its biggest brand partners ahead of the curve on augmented reality.
  • The “AR Partnership Program” is a pilot initiative launched for 10 of its brand partners.
  • These brands get early access to new formats and buying methods in the form of alpha and beta tests, as well as visibility into Snapchat’s AR product roadmap.

It’s no secret that Snapchat has been leaning into augmented reality in recent years, arming marketers with a suite of products that enable them to test the technology in their ads.

But it turns out, some brands have it better than others.

Select marketers, including Adidas, Anheuser-Busch and McDonald’s are part of of an exclusive group that gets early access to Snapchat’s latest proprietary AR tools and ad formats — before they become widely available.

They are part of what Snapchat is calling “AR Partnership Program,” a pilot initiative where 10 of its partners get early access to new formats and buying methods in the form of alpha and beta tests, as well as visibility into Snapchat’s AR product roadmap.

The program, which was rolled out in January, is led by Snapchat’s AR product marketing and management team. It is geared at strategic partners who are “leaning in,” that is, have been identified as having increased their investment over time.

The idea, according to the company, is to work with brands to gauge not just how AR can prompt user engagement, but also real business results.

“We want to learn exactly how AR can drive every type of marketing objective, and we want to make it even easier to develop and easier to buy,” Carolina Arguelles, Snap’s head of augmented reality (AR) Monetization and Product Strategy, told Business Insider. “We want to have these brands really inform the things that we’re developing, and test with us early.”

‘Bud Light Man’ broke new ground in AR ads

Anheuser-Busch, for example, was one of the first companies to dabble in augmented reality last year, when it created a dancing 3D “Bud Light Man” using Snapchat’s 3D World Lenses. Since then, the company has continued to work with Snapchat to iterate on new ideas.

The company, for example, brought Budweiser’s iconic “Dilly Dilly” campaign to life in the US through “Sponsored Snappables,” Snapchat’s gamified AR lenses. If consumers swiped left on the Snapchat carousel, they were able to use Snappables to play an interactive game with their friends. If they swiped right, they could use a dual-lens that they could share with their friends.

“AR allows consumers to engage with our brands in a deeper and more meaningful way while bringing the personalities of our brands to life,” said Spencer Gordon, senior director of digital at Anheuser-Busch. “By participating in the program we’ve been able to tap into the Snapchat team’s consumer insights, which has allowed us to produce impactful, relevant creative that’s tailored to the right consumer.”

Snap is trying to create a new ad medium hand-in-hand with big marketers

To be sure, platforms having special groups of marketers and advertisers dedicated to improve their products and help them better cater to the industry’s needs is nothing new. Facebook, for example has a client council as well as a creative and small business council.

But Snap’s AR Partnership Program is different in that it is tailored according to each client’s individual needs, said Arguelles. There is a core program strategy team, and other teams, including engineering and creative, are looped in when required. The program also includes access to senior leaders and experts on its engineering and creative teams, such as Steven M. Horowitz, Snap’s VP of Technology and Jeff Miller, its global head of creative strategy.

“The team rotates and the cadence depends on each advertiser’s individual needs,” she said. “It’s a hub-and-spoke model rather than one large roundtable…[with a] team of experts that works with each client individually to drive impact.”

When Budweiser launched its biggest-ever commercial campaign during the soccer World Cup this summer spanning more than 50 countries, for example, it tapped into program to push the envelope further. Anheuser-Busch reached out to to its Snapchat reps, asking them whether it could merge sound and AR technology to create a sound-activated lens.

Once the brand’s account and creative strategy leads confirmed that such tech was possible and was indeed on the roadmap, Anheuser-Busch was brought on board as an exclusive launch partner with a June launch. A Snapchat team built then built the AR Lens, which was able to recognize volume level around the phone to make matching animations — in this case encouraging users to cheer into the camera for their favorite soccer teams.


The brands themselves are plugged in as well. All of Anheuser-Busch’s digital brand managers, for example, meet with the Snapchat team on a regular basis to ensure that they are up to speed on the latest products and services. The company also has two digital content specialists who help it cascade the learning, best practices and results across the entire portfolio.

The hope is that AR ads can eventually work for all sorts of Snap advertisers

While Adidas, Anheuser-Busch and McDonald’s are big-name first movers, Snapchat has been increasingly making a bigger play for direct-response brands and their budgets. This is also reflected in its AR Partnership Program, which counts King Games, the UK-based company behind the mobile game Candy Crush, as a member.

King was a launch partner for Shoppable AR, becoming the first brand to drive app downloads directly from an AR Lens.

“Most marketers haven’t realized that AR can drive results,” said Shane Horneij, senior director of performance marketing at King. “Snapchat has millions of people using AR every day, and in a mindset to play — a perfect opportunity to drive engagement for our games at scale.”

Ultimately, Snapchat hopes that it’ll be able to use learnings from the program to relay the value of AR brands of all stripes. And that the members will start to share best-practices among themselves.

“Until now, we’ve gathered learnings at each individual level,” said Arguelles. “The next step is how do we bring everything together to cross-pollinate these learnings.”

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