While it is not easy to get millions, or even hundreds of millions, of people to flock to a social media site, or to keep them there once they’ve come, it is a feat that many entrepreneurs have successfully pulled off.
Monetization is another challenge entirely, and while mega-players like Facebook have managed to pull it off nicely, other highly popular digital and mobile gathering places have suffered from genuine difficulties managing how to leverage all those users into an efficient income stream.
Such is the difficulty of Snapchat. Traditional ads don’t really cut it, and they so spectacularly underperformed that the company cut their traditional ad unit. In-app purchases are currently under development, but their future is iffy at best, since it is not clear that Snapchat users want to pay to upgrade their Snapchat experience.
But, if Snapchat is right, perhaps someone else will.
Hence the concept of the Sponsored Lens — a custom filter for selfies that helps users make the self-snapshot cooler looking, more likely to be shared and (as the big plus for the advertiser that supports the filter) gets that shot seen by a viral audience.
Making a horror movie? Help Snapchat users animate themselves into a terrifying demon-monster that they can send to their friends. Superhero movie? Let someone become Iron Man, or Batman or Wonder Woman.
Sponsored Lenses are built on the selfie animation technology Snapchat picked up when it acquired Looksery. It is an expansion of the Sponsored Geofilters that can modify the background of Snaps. These selfie animations, on the other hand, are completely user-voluntary and offer users an actual service (where as some have complained the Sponsored Filters look a bit tacked on).
So how much is the tech worth? The market is still sorting that out. According to reports by Financial Times, Marvel, for example, would have to pay $750,000 for a selfie Lens branded with Iron Man 4 on a peak day, such as a holiday.