Bringing the Magic of Snap’s Platform to an IRL Event
If you were to fly over Santa Monica on April 19, something unique would have pulled your gaze away from the glimmering azure coast and the bright trappings of the Santa Monica Pier. Draped over the corrugated roof of the Barker Hangar was a message written in bold, black print: Snap Partner Summit 2023.
Within the arched steel truss hangar — just beyond Snap’s Santa Monica offices — creators, developers, partners and brands explored a multidimensional and immersive digital playground. Snapchat-yellow t-shirts, backdrops, walkways and swag popped among the crowd. Influencers engaged with AR sculptures using custom Snapchat Lenses, including a fantastical, chrome dragon and melting ice cream cone. A pillowy Snap ghost mascot waved to passersby. Dance phenom and influencer JoJo Siwa mingled among the crowd in a custom embroidered jacket. Guests interacted with a Snap AR-powered Coca-Cola vending machine to capture videos of themselves ordering a drink with the wave of their hand.
The event sprawled across the main keynote stage, creator lounge, developer’s breakout space and an outdoor tent. Snap leaders spoke on a dynamic, multimedia keynote stage adorned with massive LED screens that seamlessly reflected the skyline behind them. As each speaker introduced a burgeoning feature, the backdrop transformed and vibrant images kaleidoscopically drifted from screen to screen.
The Snap Partner Summit is a choreographed annual event, with each element planned and perfected over months.
“Every year we host SPS as a moment to celebrate the many folks who contribute to what Snapchatters experience every day — partners, creators, Snap stars, AR developers,” Senior Director of Communications Liz Markman said.
VP of Content, Business and Operations David Brinker added that SPS is also “an invitation to new creators and new partners to come on the platform, experiment and create for our audience.”
From marketing to comms, global brand experience, legal, product and creative technology, SPS is a result of cross-functional collaboration that brings sparkling innovations. “I am confident that every single team at Snap works on SPS — it’s one of the widest-reaching initiatives,” noted Global Head of Marketing Katie Babineau.
“The hope is to see a reflection of all the excitement and creativity that went into it come back to us from the creators, developers and partners in our ecosystem — who are really excited to adopt all the new things that we’ve built for them,” Brinker said.
This year — which marked the fifth edition of SPS and the first in-person edition since the pandemic — the Snap team leaned into bringing the brand story to life with leading-edge technology and interactive visual storytelling.
“We crafted a narrative really showcasing how our latest tech enhances relationships with friends, family and the world around us,” Babineau explained.
“SPS is our biggest brand moment of the year and a massive celebration of the Snapchat community,” she added. “This is my fourth SPS, and it keeps getting better and better.”
WHAT SNAP DOES
Snap Inc. is a technology company that believes the camera presents the greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate. Snap strives to contribute to human progress by empowering people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world and have fun together.
Crafting the Summit IRL
“It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to host both in real life and virtually to viewers at home,” said Babineau. “The hybrid model really showcases our ability to reach more people and engage with the community at home.”
The first post-pandemic event, and inaugural hybrid format, drew record engagement and a renewed electricity to SPS.
“After three years of live-streaming the keynote, we were so excited to have everyone back at Barker Hangar,” Markman said. “It was fantastic to feel the energy in the room.”
While the magic of the keynote, panels, breakout sessions and activations felt seamless, bringing Snap’s narrative to life was a behemoth process of cross-functional collaboration, which unfolded over six months.
“We kicked off in November, defining our North star for the event,” recalled Markman.
Next came team-alignment sprints and four months of scripting, rehearsing, doing table reads and editing.
“As we rehearse, we hack away at things, we rewrite and get it just right so that our message is really succinct,” said Markman. “One of the things I’m most proud of is just how tight our keynote is — it really takes a lot of work to make such a poignant presentation that excites people.”
With the goal of making the broader community feel included, the Snap team works tirelessly to envision a tangible experience for its guests.
“After six months in the trenches, my favorite part of SPS is watching the keynote and remembering how there were hours and hours of work that went into every visual, every product launch, every word that’s delivered on stage,” said Markman.
A subway rider imagines her fellow commuters with cartoonish features.
Concert-goers are reunited midair amid a surreal purple glow.
Each of these videos told the story of Snap’s AR Lenses, Friend Finder feature and prolific creators, respectively.
The visually stunning digital confections that grace the SPS stage are the result of careful brainstorming, scripting, location scouting, all-night shoots, post-production and more.
“When the creative team, marketers and production teams go into development, they think about storyboards, tonality, casting, locations,” said Babineau. “There’s a lot of magic that happens to bring the storyboard to life within budget and in line with what we’re trying to achieve.”
When the teams go into development, there’s a lot of magic that happens to bring the storyboard to life.”
These visual components punctuated the keynote event, augmenting the speakers who presented on the state of Snap’s figurative union. CEO Evan Spiegel expounded on the way Snap elevates the everyday lives of over 750 million Snapchatters every month. VP of Product Jack Brody discussed core products and AI advancements on the horizon.
Head of AR Enterprise Services Jill Popelka introduced Snap’s new SaaS business, ARES. “It brings our world-class AR technology into customer’s own apps and websites, as well as into their stores,” she explained, highlighting its use in brands such as Nike, Men’s Wearhouse, FARM Rio and goodr.
CTO Bobby Murphy spoke about advancements in Snap AR, including a new generation of lenses powered by generative AI, and Ray Tracing — “the same technology that game developers and Hollywood studios use to create realistic visual effects, now in a first-of-its-kind algorithm that enables it in real time on mobile devices.”
In all, Snap leadership greeted SPS guests with a flood of innovations.
“Our goal this year was really to make sure that we could tell our compelling brand story and help people understand how we enhance relationships of friends, family and the world around us,” said Babineau. “SPS is designed to inspire and educate our partners on how they can work with us to build new innovations and partnerships for years to come.”
Crafting a Moment in Time
The magic of SPS lies in its tangibility, said Markman.
“As a company that’s so digital — answering emails, editing docs, pushing code — it’s so cool to work elbow-to-elbow to make something you can touch and feel,” she said. “It feels like we’re making a moment in time that people can experience and take home.”
It’s so cool to make something you can touch and feel. It feels like we’re making a moment in time that people can experience and take home.”
Anyone wandering the vibrant scene of SPS 2023 could tell you that there were countless moments to hold on to: creators twirled in front of AR photo booths, laughing and filming one another. Guests virtually tried on Nike sneakers with Snapchat-yellow swooshes before lacing up a new pair of IRL shoes in the perfect size. Developers waved their hands and pulled comical faces to test the limits of Snap’s AR Lenses.
“We had over 100 Snapstars come to visit and celebrate all of their success on Snap over the past year,” said Director of Talent Partnerships Jim Shepherd. “While some of these creators have been around for a long time, they’re super active for the first time. Highlighting the fact that we have a vibrant creator community is powerful.”
“Walking around the event, you have these moments of ‘Oh my goodness, someone is creating something with our technology — live, right in front of us,’” said Markman. “It’s really cool seeing users ‘in the wild,’ delighting in the hard work of so many people across the company.”
These epiphanous moments are what SPS is all about, she added.
“The hope was to make every partner and different piece of our community feel included,” said Markman. “If we’ve achieved that, we’ve achieved everything.”