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Brands are paying teenagers to make cheap augmented reality ads on Snapchat



Evan Spiegel
Spiegel, CEO and cofounder of Snapchat, talks at the 2018 Code

Greg Sandoval/Business

  • Brands are paying teens to make AR ads on Snapchat for
    a fraction of what they originally used to cost.
  • Previously they had to shell out anywhere between

    $500,000 to $750,000
    for an AR lens, while now, they can
    get one for as cheap as $2,000.
  • A big reason is Lens Studio, a design app that
    provides users with templates and guides for getting
    started on AR on Snapchat, which has made it possible for
    anyone to jump in.
  • For some brands, partnering with teens is not only
    cheaper, but also more authentic.

Until a few years ago, brands had to shell out anywhere between

$500,000 to $750,000
for an augmented reality lens on

Now, they can pay teenagers to make them them for a fraction of
the price.

That’s because instead of having to directly work with Snapchat —

or getting their agencies to design AR lenses
—brands such as
Warner Bros Records, Deezer and Plato, have started
enlisting teens to create these animated, computer-generated

When gaming app Plato was looking to engage a young audience
around its game Werewolf, for example, it tapped influencer
platform Fanbytes‘ Snapchat
influencer network, and found 17 year-old Jocelle and 19 year-old
Ken (the pair declined to provide their last names). The duo then
created two AR lenses for the brand, which were further amplified
across 25 other channels on Snapchat.

The lenses ended up getting over 2.3 million views and 3.1
million views respectively, even becoming the top trending
community lenses on Snapchat when they were released. And the
whole process, from development to distribution, cost Plato
merely $50,000.

“It was not only cheaper, but it actually helped us reach the
audience we wanted to reach… [that is] young millennials and
Gen Z,” Joe Wagner, director of growth and community at Plato.
“There is nowhere else that we can do that.”

Lens Studio has made it possible for anyone to create an AR lens

Screen Shot 2018 08 30 at 2.59.45 PMFanbytes

It was not always possible for just about anybody to create an AR
lens on Snapchat, until the platform rolled out
Lens Studio
, a design app that provides users
with templates and guides for getting started on AR. The
tool essentially opened up a market for anyone to create lenses.

From Snapchat’s perspective, Lens Studio makes both AR creation
and distribution easier and positively impacting the engagement
with lenses. More than a third of Snapchat’s daily audience, for
instance, plays with lenses each day, spending over 3 minutes
each on average per day. 

But from the creator point-of-view, it not only allows them to
test their creative muscles, but also easily get their work out
there. Creators can submit their lenses to Snap after creating
them, and then nearly seamlessly start sharing them with anyone
on Snapchat, thanks to Snapcodes and deeplinks — no matter
the device they are on.

Since Snapchat launched Lens Studio in December 2017, creators
have submitted over 100,000 unique lenses, according to the
company, which have been viewed by Snapchat users over 3.5
billion times. One such creator is Lucille Thomas, a 17 year-old
from London, who started dabbling in lenses earlier this year.

“For me, personally, starting to create lenses was a very natural
progression,” she told Business Insider. “I was already very
active on Snapchat and knew Photoshop as well.”

Snapchat, itself, is continuing to invest in its lens community.
It works closely with a few dozen creators it calls “Official
Lens Creators,” comprising artists, designers, developers and
students who create lenses, providing them tools and guidance to
foster learning and development. The group is also promoted
through its website and workshops, and may also receive early
access to new Lens Studio templates and capabilities.

And companies like Fanbytes have started to capitalize on the

The one downside, however, is that while creators can easily
create and distribute lenses, there is no way for them to
officially monetize them — not yet at least. And that’s where
companies like Fanbytes have started to come in as middlemen.

While the company initially started off helping brands such as Go
Pro and Adidas run branded collaborations
with social influencers on YouTube, Instagram and Vine (RIP), it
has shifted its attention to Snapchat in recent years. Fanbytes
owns and partners with a network of over 120 channels and 1,000
influencers, overseeing the creation, distribution and
analytics for such partnerships, including AR lenses.

Fanbytes has looked to tap into Snap trends early, hoping for a
payoff. For example @makeuptutorials, which it bought from a 13
year-old that used to get 10,000 views and and now is seeing
110,000 views per snap. The strategy to boost content is by
creating a relay chain of Snapchat handles of sort, with
different channels giving shout outs to others and their

“We are the ones that manage these kids, looking over everything
from ideation and the creative process to distribution,”
said Tim Armoo, one of Fanbytes’ co-founders. “You can think of
us like the modern-day agency.”

The company promises brands a guaranteed number of views on their
campaigns, charging them on a cost-per-view basis. Plato, for
example, shelled out $50,000 for both the creation and
distribution of its AR lenses. The creators typically get
anywhere between $2,000 to 5,000 for actually building the AR
lenses, far higher than what teens on Instagram make,
according to The Atlantic

For brands, partnering with teens is cheaper and more organic

Screen Shot 2018 08 30 at 3.17.17 PMFanbytes

Snapchat has been
pioneering augmented reality advertising
, advertisers can
typically buy lenses in three ways.

They can use Snap’s self-serve tools to bid on Snap ads to run
regular ads, where users can “Swipe Up to Try” AR lenses for $100
per day. Or they can pay for an audience-targeted lens for
upwards of $40,000 with an agreed upon CPM.

Or they can buy lenses nationally, across the US, which run into
hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the anticipated
impressions that day.

But at the end of the day, these branded lenses are still ads,
argues Armoo — a fact that is not lost on the highly coveted teen
and 18-to-24 year-old segment of the app. Forcing them to
watch ads or overly branding the lenses on the carousel only
turns them off further, to the detriment of the

“The main reason brands come to us is that they don’t want to
randomly show up in people’s Stories or carousels, they want to
be more organic, and these teens help them do that,” he said.
“Plus, most bands still don’t know how create lenses easily
themselves, and also don’t know how to make these go viral.”

“A lot of the lenses brands sponsor aren’t organic and are
unapologetically branded… I don’t want my face to turn into a
Coke can,” agreed creator Lucille Thomas. “This way, we can
create lenses we actually want to use as well and make them
organic, but it’s still got a brand element.”

Of course, brands willing to to go down this route sacrifice the
amplified reach that Snapchat’s self-serve ad tools offer as well
as other direct-response results, such as using using an AR lens
to get users to immediately download an app or make a purchase.

But depending on the brand goals, going with a native strategy
can still work, said Nick Cicero, CEO and founder of Delmondo, a
social video analytics and audience insights software platform.

“Not only can they [teens] deliver reach and authenticity
when done properly, often times they know how the native tools
will be perceived best to their large audiences.”

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