Snapchat and the #LastSelfie

Social media is a wonder of the modern world. Okay, maybe not “social media” as it is defined (since it has been around a long time), but social media as we know it. I mean just think, Twitter and Facebook alone allow us to connect to people all over the globe in a matter of seconds. We can get updates on people’s lives without ever having to speak with them, something that was unheard of even two decades ago.

Interacting within social media has become increasingly popular with Millennials, especially since we are the generation that has spent a majority of our lives surrounded by it. Many companies and individuals have taken note of this and use our constant access to social media to get in contact with us. These “social media campaigns” can have a range of desired effects, from generating revenue to raising awareness for an issue.

One of the best social media campaigns done in the past year, which actually started in April 2014, was done by the World Wildlife Foundation. Their campaign was so good that they won the 2015 Webby Award for the best social media campaign. Here is a breakdown of their campaign:


In an effort to raise awareness of endangered species among Millennials, WWF had to think outside the box. Millennials are usually had to reach because they tend to stay away from traditional media (regularly scheduled TV, newspapers, etc.) but they are all connected through social media.

So, in order to reach a generation that is more prone to posting pictures than reading, WWF targeted one of the best photo taking apps ever: Snapchat.

“An image sent with Snapchat, when viewed, disappears in seconds, with no chance of being seen again. Just like the endangered animals the WWF protects,” says their elevator pitch on the Webby Awards website.


As stated above, WWF used Snapchat heavily and to great success, getting an immediate increase in donations for month following the campaign. Since their planned target audience were Millennials, using an emotive Snapchat campaign prompted a nearly overwhelming response.

The idea was focused around the “selfie culture” that has picked up over the last few years. Brands have been noticing the increase in selfies as well, with the number of brands using selfies and running selfie contests rising from a total of 263 in January 2013 to 1,042 in December 2013.

The campaign itself started in localized countries, only being utilized by WWF’s headquarters in Denmark, Turkey, and Italy. Any and all users who followed the accounts would randomly be sent Snapchats, or photos, that last about 6 seconds and included the face of an endangered species and quotes such as “Better take a screenshot. This could be my #LastSelfie,” and, “In 6 seconds, I’ll be gone forever, but you can still save my kind.”

Since Snapchat only has a time limit and the photos don’t last forever, the WWF managed to connect that to endangered species and how they too don’t have much time. Users then took screenshots of these animals “#lastselfies” and shraed them on Twitter and Facebook.


There were over 40,000 responses and shares on Twitter in the first day alone, exceeding their total predicted response.

Lessons learned:

Positive: This campaign was done before a series of Snapchat updates, which means that at the time, Snapchat wasn’t a media that supported advertising. It ended up being definitive proof that Snapchat could be used for advertising purposes, even though the videos and pictures can only last a total of 10 seconds.

This campaign also showed the interconnectivity between Millennials and social media, especially across multiple platforms. Since Snapchat doesn’t have a viral share function, a lot of the campaign hinged on people having access to multiple social media platforms where it could then become viral (i.e. Twitter and hashtags).

Finally, the campaign was successful in large part due to its emotional impact on users on a relevant platform. Had this campaign started on Facebook instead of Snapchat, it would not have gotten nearly the response that it did. Between the relevance of the platform and the ability to relate to the message, users were able to band together and get engaged in social change.

Negatives: As previously stated, Snapchat did not support advertising at the time of this campaign. This made it difficult for the organizers to spread the word because their accounts were consistently getting overrun with feedback. They were forced to work closely with Snapchat to ensure that their accounts did not get shut down due to high traffic.

Another limitation of Snapchat is that the video/picture only lasts a short time meaning there is a heavy reliance on users to screenshot and then share. If someone didn’t think to take a screenshot of the photo, the brilliance of the marketing campaign was useless. Additionally,  not being able to view past ads and cross-post is one reason why companies and brands were hesitant to use Snapchat for advertising purposes.


In the end, the #LastSelfie campaign by WWF, in conjunction with Turkish ad agency 41! 29?, got the desired effect of raising both money and awareness for endangered animals. And, over a year after the campaign started, awards are still being given out and articles are still being written about it.

Not bad for a campaign that was only supposed to last a week.

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