When American Eagle’s new Snapchat dance challenge drops, which will be at any moment now, it will mark the first branded, sponsored campaign using Snap’s new 2-D full body-tracking technology.
The challenge directs Snapchatters to physically match the moves set out in a visual overlay, and the phone’s camera reads their poses and takes selfies, which can then be shared in the app. Creators on the platform have been playing with the tool, but American Eagle is the first brand to partner with Snap on a sponsored campaign.
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“Technology and innovation have always been at the core of AE’s brand DNA, and it’s with great pride to be the first to partner with Snapchat on their new body-tracking feature, Lens Studio 3.1,” said Chad Kessler, global brand president at American Eagle. “Gen Z loves music and dance as an output for self-expression, so we look forward to bringing those passions into this new campaign as the backdrop to test out Snapchat’s new technology.”
For Snap, it was the chance to show what the tool can do. The company worked “closely with American Eagle on the development of this first sponsored-use case, and built a high-quality, creative Lens that’s a lot of fun to play with,” Carolina Arguelles Navas, Snap’s global product marketing manager for augmented reality, told WWD.
It’s more than just a chance to entertain consumers. With the back-to-school season under way, the retailer also included a “Shop Now” button, so users can browse AE’s products and make purchases directly from AE.
The technology that makes this challenge possible arrived in the latest update for Lens Studio, a set of tools that allow third parties to create Snapchat’s augmented reality Lenses. In August, Snap added a 2-D full body-tracking Lens template that can track 18 points, building on a previous tool that tracked eight joints in the upper body only.
It’s another step in what Snap believes is an evolving computing paradigm, going from screens acting as dividers between people to open lenses on the world that “allow us to digitally enhance, entertain or help us live our lives,” explained Arguelles Navas.
“It’s not just the buildings and objects in front of you, but the people,” she added. “This technology enhancement allows creators and artists to reimagine the world — whether that’s adding an animated effect to your avant-garde outfit or creating a masterpiece by bringing digital art to dance — and we will continue to invest in this technology over time.”
Snap has plenty of motivation to keep it up. In the U.S. alone, the app reaches more than 100 million people, and by the company’s count, more than 180 million users engage with AR daily on average.
It’s worth noting that Snapchat’s 2-D body tracking isn’t necessarily a gateway to virtual fashion try-ons, as trying clothes on digitally relies more on 3-D technology. But this development does point to Snap’s interest in immersive experiences, and the company is uniquely interested in pursuing apparel try-ons.
What AE’s dance challenge may represent, perhaps more than anything else, is the broader social media landscape’s answer to TikTok. Earlier this month, the Trump administration ordered TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based Bytedance, to divest from the app or pull it out of the American market by mid-November.
In the meantime, it still enjoys massive popularity among Gen Z users in the U.S., as well as abroad. Dance and lip-sync videos have been key to this traction, and that fact has not only set off a race among brands to learn how to leverage the app, but also rival features from social media competitors like Instagram. The Facebook-owned platform debuted Instagram Reels for short-form videos backed by music in early August, the same month Snap launched its body-tracking tool, which is tailor-made for dance challenges.
Meanwhile, TikTok itself has been courting the fashion sector. It also appeared to go after Snap, in particular, with its own AR-driven ad format called Brand Scan. That makes some sense, considering Snapchat reached more 13- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. than Facebook or Instagram in the first quarter of 2020, according to Snap’s figures.
With that, 2020 is shaping up to be an intense Battle Royale in social media. TikTok’s fate is still undetermined, and with online shopping surging during the coronavirus pandemic, the peak shopping periods of back-to-school and the holidays loom larger than ever.
According to a back-to-school study conducted by Snap, 27 percent of college Snapchatters plan to spend more than $700, and U.S. families with one high-school user are projected to spend more than $8.5 billion.
The winners in the fight for social ad dollars and e-commerce may be determined by how well the platforms and brands leverage technology, especially the smartphone camera.
“The use and proliferation of cameras isn’t a passing trend, but the cornerstone of how consumer behavior will evolve over the next decade,” said Arguelles Navas. “Brands, like American Eagle, that invest in AR content early and often will be set up to meet their customers where they are spending time and paying attention — the camera.”