Snap sales boss Jeff Lucas steps down as its programmatic sales ramp up
The former Viacom sales exec had overseen the direct sales of Snapchat’s ads, but an increasing share of its ads are not being sold directly.
Snap is losing its global sales boss with the big-time traditional media pedigree at a time when Snapchat’s parent company doesn’t necessarily need a global sales boss, let alone one with a big-time traditional media pedigree.
Snap VP and Head of Global Sales Jeff Lucas is leaving the company less than two years after he joined, a Snap spokesperson said on Monday, confirming an earlier report from Cheddar.
The news may be something of a shock given the raft of executive departures Snap has experienced of late and in light of its latest earnings report that marked its most positive since the company went public in March 2017. But it shouldn’t be such a surprise, especially in light of that earnings report.
When Lucas joined Snap in June 2016, the entirety of Snapchat’s ad inventory was sold directly. So it made sense that a company looking to sell ads in a TV-esque way for TV-level dollars to TV-loving advertisers would hire someone from the TV world to oversee the effort. And it made sense to hire Lucas in particular because, as Viacom’s sales boss, he had overseen ad sales for TV networks like MTV and Comedy Central, whose audiences likely aligned well with Snapchat’s audience. Selling vertical video ads and augmented-reality selfie masks to TV advertisers would still be a stretch but less of one if Lucas could parlay his previous experience convincing big brands how to spend their money into persuading them to redirect that spend to Snapchat, which was positioning itself as the new alternative to TV for both viewers and advertisers.
But less than two years later, Lucas’s skill set of convincing big brands to sign big-money deals isn’t so necessary to Snap’s ad business. A year ago, the company began to automate the sale of its vertical video ad format, Snap Ads, through an advertising API, and months later opened up that inventory to all advertisers through a self-serve ad-buying tool. As a result, the big bucks are now coming from smaller advertisers that may not spend as much individually but combine to send more money Snapchat’s way.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, more than 90 percent of the Snap Ads served had been bought through either Snap’s ad API or self-serve Ad Manager. And this year, Snap plans to start selling more of its high-end ads through the programmatic ad auction that has been fueling its revenue growth, company executives said during last week’s earnings call.
“The engine that drove the growth in the fourth quarter and will continue to drive our growth really is the auction platform. That’s really where things are heading,” Snap CFO Drew Vollero said last week.
That appears to explain Lucas why is heading out the door. While his title implied oversight of Snap’s entire ad business, he primarily led Snap’s direct sales efforts. Now Snap is making less of an effort on the direct sales side of its business.
In the wake of Lucas’s departure, Snap plans to take the handful of ad sales executives who had reported to Lucas — who reported to Snap’s chief strategy officer Imran Khan — and now have them report directly to Khan, according to sources. Those executives include Snap’s various regional sales chiefs in the US, its international sales chief and its head of agency partnerships.