Snapchat and the awkward social media dilemma

Snapchat and the awkward social media dilemma

Snapchat’s new campaign marks a significant shift towards acknowledging social media’s pitfalls, but begs the question: is action more important than ads?

Snapchat’s ‘Less Social Media. More Snapchat’ ad campaign feels a little… different. 

The platform – noted for appealing to a younger demographic, reaching over 90 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds, and more than 75 per cent of 13- to 34-year-olds - is positioning itself as an antidote to other social media.

Snap’s ad, which aired on February 4 during the Grammys in the US, has been out across digital, out-of-home and other social media platforms.

The timing of this campaign, however, coincides with heightened scrutiny of social media platforms' impact on children and teens.

It came after Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, along with other tech executives, including those from TikTok, Snap, and Discord, faced questioning from US lawmakers regarding the potential dangers posed to young users. Zuckerberg was compelled to issue an apology to the families of victims during a particularly intense moment of the proceedings.

Snapchat, which launched in 2011, is apparently reacting directly to this spotlight, using its campaign position itself as a beacon of connection, happiness, and fun for users of all ages. The campaign seeks to remind users of the unique appeal that drew them to Snapchat initially.

The company even set up a website, which reads as both an apology and a mission statement. Excerpts include:

“The promise of social media started out great. It was a place where we could connect with people and share bits of our lives. A place where we could be a part of something bigger than ourselves — where we could feel supported and loved.

“But somewhere in the adolescence of social media, things began to feel off. Friends became people who felt more like strangers. Moments became more curated. Sharing became more contrived.

“Social media felt like an inauthentic version of our lives rather than a source of genuine connection. And this made us feel less connected, less open, and less comfortable expressing ourselves.

“[…] Snapchat opens to a camera, and not a feed of content, so we can share our perspective easily with those who matter most to us.

“[…] Conversations on Snapchat are designed to be deleted by default because that’s just how conversations in real life work. We can express ourselves with our close friends – in the same way we would if we were just hanging out together.”

Our take

Few parents/guardians would feel confident that their carefully rehearsed speech extolling the virtues of a ‘normal’ childhood can stand up to the power of that great 21st century threat: ‘the algorithm’.

There are, of course, levels to the lengths families will go to prolong the inevitable. But even these come with the fear of ‘unforeseen consequences’: will a total ban on mobile phone use only strengthen social media’s allure? Will your child be left out at school for not having access? What, if any, regulations would be impactful?

And, so, we encounter a very modern global problem that the creative industry must shoulder. Snapchat’s advert is perhaps the boldest example yet of self-reflection, but the level of sincerity the viewer will detect is as individual as the aforementioned parental coping strategies.

A few things stick out in the creative planning, however. None of which, we’re sure, are accidental, that include the fleeting, spontaneous feeling use of mobile devices, the natural, makeup-free aesthetic of the actors, the use of filters depicted as fun rather than to beautify, and the use of Stories as a means to enhance a moment with friends, rather than ‘being’ the moment in and of itself.

It’s impossible to mind-read the extent to which Snap’s campaign is executive damage control or coming from a sincere place. But it's certain that the demand for algorithmic restrictions will increase.

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