With new leadership, Snapchat makes friends among marketers and publishers in Cannes

Digiday covers that latest from marketing and media at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. More from the series →

When the hedges arrived at La Malmaison on Saturday, they had to be trimmed down. Snapchat wanted the vibe of its Cannes space to open — not private and exclusive. Indeed, that’s why Snap executives carried small cards with them to hand out to Cannes attendees during the week. And even while there was a list at the door, anyone could be invited in to enjoy rolled up ice cream on the terrace or view Alex Israel’s art exhibit, featuring Snapchat’s augmented reality marker technology.

Snap has been closed off at Cannes in years past — and in general. Conversations were limited. Leadership was elusive. Snapping during parties wasn’t encouraged. But there’s been a recent shift at the company to no longer be so secretive and so exclusive. Instead, Snap, with its new, expanded executive team, wants to be seen as a good partner. And it’s working.

“You go to Facebook Beach and it’s like, ‘Ugh, same old story.’ But with Snapchat, I started to see them open up with the partner summit. They talk more. They’re honest with what they can do now and what they’re trying in the future for us,” said an agency executive at a global holding company.

Jeremi Gorman is at Cannes for the first time with Snapchat (10th time in her life) since she joined the company in October 2018. As Snap’s chief business officer, Gorman has been leading meetings with agencies, advertisers and publishers as she pitches the new Snapchat.

“We want to ensure brand marketers know and love us. We want to reflect what we believe the app to be: close friends, communication, some level of jubilee. We, as an executive team acknowledged there was a disconnect for how we show up in public and how we actually are,” said Snap’s chief business officer Jeremi Gorman.

Gorman was one of 25 Snap employees taking meetings at Cannes. The C-suite team included CEO Evan Spiegel, CMO Kenny Mitchell, CSO Jared Grusd, CCO Julie Henderson, head of global brand strategy Betsy Kenny Lack, vp of global agency partnerships Dave Roter, vp of partnerships Ben Schwerin, global head of creative strategy Jeff Miller, international vp Claire Valoti, vp of U.S. enterprise business solutions Luke Kallis, and senior director of content business development David Brinker.

Many of those hires, including Gorman, are new as Snapchat looked to strengthen its leadership team. Gorman said she sees one of the benefits is it allows Spiegel to work more on the product.

“When you have a founder that’s such a future thinker and visionary, to get them out of the weeds because they have people they trust allows us to innovate in the future. Because he’s not solving the problem that I’m supposed to or Kenny or Julie,” Gorman said.

Spiegel put himself in the spotlight during his two days at Cannes. On Sunday, he gave a toast at a Snap-sponsored dinner featuring about 90 advertisers and publishers. On Monday, he moderated two unofficial events. He interviewed Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman at WPP Beach about Huffman’s journey with Reddit and the focus on online communities. Later, Spiegel interviewed Alex Israel, the LA-based artist who created Snapchat’s Cannes exhibit inside La Malmaison.

“And every time he wasn’t out in public, [Spiegel] was with me doing a client meeting,” Gorman said.

Snap’s pitch at Cannes includes touting its reach of 90 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., first revealed by Spiegel at the Snap Partner Summit in April. Snap also has new research touting the value of that audience, Gen Z. The 70-page report “Into The Future” describes how they are influential in household spend, such as deciding what phone each family member should buy.

Mel Edwards, global CEO of Wunderman Thompson, said she sees Snap clearly at the intersection of business and culture.

“It’s grown up with Gen Z, or rather Gen Z has grown up with Snapchat. Born from the teenage desire for privacy, with images that expire, which, by the way, is now everywhere, it has evolved from fun with filters to emphasize location and become a truly local channel,” Edwards said.

Snap offers not just that valuable audience but effective ways to advertise to them and has worked to make sure the methods are more brand safe.

“As much as they were too cool for school in the background, they were listening and actioning for the needs of the marketplace. Brand safety out of the gate had not been a feature by design. That said, the breakout of Discover helped. And if you look at the roadmap, they were one of the quick ones to bring on third-parties,” said Kieley Taylor, managing partner, global head of social at GroupM.

Snap is also pitching new ad buying products, in particular, Snap Select. The product lets advertisers buy ads exclusively in Snap’s premium content, as in its shows and vetted publishing partners rather than between content from Snap users, and at fixed CPMs. Gorman said that type of curation was in response to advertisers’ wants and has received positive feedback while here at Cannes.

“In Discover, hand-curation is very useful for us, and we curated even further with Snap Select, which was a reaction to advertisers not wanting to be next to UGC at all. That’s been a huge gangbuster,” Gorman said.

Taylor of GroupM said she’s also interested in the unskippable six-second ads available in the new multiplayer games in Snapchat and the expansion of Snap’s gaming features that help keep it unique.

And Snap has been talking about its growth in e-commerce. Snap has been deepening its relationship with Shopify. In April, Snap and Shopify released a feature where Shopify store owners could more easily create Snap Ads. Earlier this month, Snap allowed select users, including Kylie Jenner and Spencer Pratt, to link their entire Shopify stores to their Snapchat profiles.

Advertisers are working not only with this new leadership team but also through a restructured sales organization. When Gorman joined, she decided to switch the regionalized strategy to a verticalized one so that sales reps have category expertise.

“By verticalizing, there’s a depth of knowledge and have conversations that are tactical. Meetings are higher level and solving problems instead of, ‘Hey, I need your CPMs to be lower.’ I haven’t had any meetings about that [here].”


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