Meet the Snap exec leading product strategy, driving monetization, and debunking myths on augmented reality

Screen Shot 2018 08 11 at 11.35.50 AM

  • Carolina Arguelles is Snap’s head of augmented reality (AR) Monetization and Product Strategy.
  • Arguelles told Business Insider that AR education, as well as tackling misperceptions about the space, are a core part of her role.
  • Another focus is how to make AR into something that’s accessible to more brands for more reasons.
  • She also said that Snap welcomed competition in the space, and that she believes the company is in a good position because it was an early adopter.

Snapchat has carved a name for itself as an augmented reality pioneer. 

But while most people are familiar with its barfing rainbows and dancing hot dogs, not much is known about the people working behind-the-scenes to help pull those fun filters and lenses off.

As Snap’s head of AR Monetization and Product Strategy, Carolina Arguelles works across the company’s product and engineering teams to bring new AR capabilities and buying methods to the market for advertisers. 

The former Nielsen manager spends a lot of time thinking about how to make AR accessible to all brands, both big and small, giving them the measurement tools they need, and battling misperceptions about the nascent space.

Business Insider caught up with Arguelles to chat about all things AR. Here’s a lightly edited version of the conversation.

Tanya Dua: What has been a priority for you in terms of Snapchat’s AR filters and lenses?

Carolina Arguelles: One of our key areas of focus is education. Just trying to make people understand what it means to be in the camera. To advertise in the camera, how it is accessible, how it’s not something that you should be super scared of — which, especially with a new audience is something that’s just core to anything that we can try to build off of.

Dua: And you’ve been hosting events as well. Two years ago the perception was that Snap wasn’t really talking to people much, and that’s completely changed now. What is the strategic aim behind all of this? Are you trying to get more advertisers on board? What’s the longer term play?

Arguelles: With AR, we’re not just trying to sell to people, we’re really trying to educate people, because we find it opportunistic for them. So that’s one goal, we need a platform to help educate. And by being very quiet, it was hard for us to do that. And then the second one, of course, is to try to mobilize more traction as we’re launching these new features, like shoppable AR.

Dua: How did you fall into leading revenue product strategy for AR?

Arguelles: When I started at Snap, I was actually on our measurement team. I was previously at Nielsen for a long time, that really helped the transition into that. I was running all measurement for every kind of vertical, except for entertainment. And then I also started leading thought leadership and evaluation of all of our ads. That’s how I really fell into AR. My job was figuring out how does AR really drive measurement results for advertisers, what works better than others, what are creative best practices. I was really passionate about that, I got close to the team, and then that’s when they invited me to kind of come over and lead the AR product strategy on that side. 

Dua: Tell me more about your job. What does leading AR product strategy entail?

Arguelles: So, my main job is to bookend the product development process. I’m trying to understand industry trends: Where is the industry going, not just in tech, but actually just where is society going? How are social economic issues effecting how people are living their lives? And what are advertisers saying about what they need? That helps me understand where our priority should be, from a product development standpoint.

Then, I work with Peter Sellis [Snap’s director of revenue product] and his amazing team on developing the right technical features. It’s their main job to actually build the features. What I do is help synthesize what the market is saying about what we should be building, based on what they want and what’s going to really drive impact for them.

The next phase is helping them tweak, making sure the products that they’re building have the features that advertisers actually really want. The last phase is around positioning storytelling and packaging from a market standpoint.

So that’s kind of the other side, which is: How do we go to market? How do we educate people about something that they don’t even understand? That when you say AR, they’re like, "What? Augmented reality. Oh, that, is that the headset?" It’s a really interesting and difficult, but exciting job on that side, of how do you educate, how do you bring things to a market.

Dua: What about pricing? Do you decide that as well?

Arguelles: Yes, I help direct strategy for entire pricing teams. There’s pricing experts, and they do the analysis around how we price things. What I do is I say, "Hey, this is what we’re launching. Based on my analysis, this is what I’m recommending for pricing. Please look at this and give us your recommendation." That’s really how it works. I basically inform the pricing team on what they need to prioritize and how they need to look at some analyses to figure out how we price things.

Dua: Have you also been focused on bringing down the cost of lenses and filters? They were exorbitant when they first started.

Arguelles: Yeah, that’s been a key focus area of mine specifically, but also other people. We can’t just have this $500,000 option for a single-day buy. That was a part of the reason for launching audience lenses. The reason why it’s priced that way is because you’re reaching that many people. It’s not arbitrary. It’s actually based on impressions and reach. If we don’t have an alternative that’s lower reach, then how are we ever gonna sell this? 

But we were still challenged because if we’re the only ones producing, we can only take on so many lenses in so much time. First we said if you spend up to this amount, we’ll build for you for free. Then we realized that at the $300,000 level, you’re still not going to have a mid-market brand. That’s their budget for two quarters.

That’s what was so amazing about the push of Lens Studio out to the public. Lens Studio democratizing that access to AR and AR development is such a big part of how we can scale to, not just the bigger advertisers, but the mid-market brands and potentially, eventually, small businesses, which I think is exciting.

Dua: So small businesses are a huge focus for Snap, even in AR?

Arguelles: Definitely. I think one of our focus areas is how do we continuously make AR something that’s accessible to more brands and for more reasons. For the medium mid-market, how do we make this tool something that’s achievable to them? I think that’s just starting, these brands actually starting to dabble and be experimental with the tools, which is why I think AR is really set to take off over the next year, especially.

Dua: How big of a priority has measurement been for Snap’s AR products? How do you prove to marketers that a barfing rainbow lens does not only drive engagement but ROI?

Arguelles: We have tried to make sure that we had parity on measurement for lenses the same way we had for Snap ads. It was making sure that Datalogics and Nielsen Catalina and in-app polling and every single measurement solution was available for lenses, and what’s most recent is that we just announced pixel attribution and app-install attribution for lenses as well. For us, that was a huge priority with working cross-functionally to make sure that we have that.

Dua: What are some of your biggest challenges, both in your job internally and plus with clients?

Arguelles: One core challenge, I continue to say, is education. I don’t know how many meetings there are when we’re starting again on 101, because there’s a fresh person in the room, or there’s maybe an older person or more senior and hasn’t much experience with Snapchat. But there’s starting to be more people getting into it, and it helps that the industry is starting to talk about it. That helps, actually. We don’t see it as super competitive. We actually think building an ecosystem around AR is important.

Dua: So you’re saying that you welcome competition?

Arguelles: I think we welcome, whether it’s Amazon or Apple or any platform that’s talking about AR. In a way, a rising tide lifts all boats. I think that is true for AR a little bit is it helps us with people becoming more familiar, which is what we’re talking about.

Dua: And do people still have misperceptions about AR and Snap in general?

Arguelles: Yes, this idea that you can only buy one day, or it’ll cost a million dollars. That is something that’s not true. That’s an important misperception to shake, pricing misperception. The other is that AR is upper funnel. Snapchat AR is not just upper funnel. We actually measured all these very upper funnel-flighted campaigns, these big national buys, and even those drove really strong sales results. The fact that this unit can drive sales is really important to understand. Those are the two big misperceptions that I think we’re trying to battle.

Dua: On a broader company level, do you believe that AR is Snapchat’s core key differentiator? It’s the area Snap wants to own? 

Arguelles: I do believe that AR is one of our key benefits. I do think that’s there’s actually something else around just how you use our platform and our platform for communication, not just social. There’s no question that because we open straight to the camera, because we focus on our user experience, that AR is one of our unique aspects, not just for our users but for our advertisers as well. Because we invested in AR 2 and a half years ago, it puts us in a good position today.

We know what happens. We understand what our users like and how they respond. We understand what works for advertisers and what doesn’t work. We have 2 and a half years and thousands of campaigns. That puts us in a position where we’re not just launching and experimenting, we’re actually already optimizing and tweaking. That  position in the marketplace really sets us up now that the industry is starting to catch up to it.

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