In consumer AR’s still-early stages, relatively few companies are producing real revenue. One of those is Snapchat, which is a leader within a leading revenue category: AR marketing. According to ARtillery Intelligence, AR advertising revenues were $2.9 billion last year.

But within that value chain, sponsored lens providers — predominantly Snapchat and Meta — aren’t the only ones making money. The art of lens creation itself is getting relatively lucrative. “Relatively” is the operative term, as their revenue isn’t on the scale of Snap and Meta. 

But in terms of personal income, lens creation has become a notable subset of the ecosystem. Some graphic designers and developers are finding they can even make a living off creating lenses. In fact, some creators are making more than a living… to the tune of seven figures.

Mobile AR Global Revenue Forecast, 2021-2026

Sheer Reach

Zeroing in on Snap creators as a representative sample, they can make money by working with brand marketers, or by creating community lenses for Snap directly. The latter involves Snap’s Spotlight program, which paid 12,000 creators more than $250 million last year collectively. 

This total goes beyond just AR lens creators, though they do make up a meaningful segment. And looking beyond Snap, TikTok’s Effect House is just out of the gate, so we’ll likely see considerable creator monetization there as well. That will be accelerated by TikTok’s global scale.

In fact, TikTok creators are already tapping into that scale. Arthur Bouffard’s TikTok lenses recently passed one billion views collectively. This was just three months after he started creating lenses. Among other things, this underscores how barriers are falling for AR creators.

Beyond sheer reach and back to real dollars, some individual lens creators are reaching six to seven-figure annual salaries as noted above. Here are just a few.

– Cyrene Quiamco is a Snapchat lens creator who has worked directly with brand marketers including Marriott, Ulta, and Verizon. Last year, she made about $750,000.

– Katie Feeney is a creator with 854,000+ Snapchat subscribers who has exceeded $1 million in annual earnings.

– Sarah Callahan is an actress, model, and fitness influencer who has made more than $1 million through Snap’s Spotlight program.

– Joey Rogoff is a creator with 81,000 Snapchat subscribers who has made $1.2 million through Spotlight.

– Kevin Parry is a visual effects artist with about 117,000 Snapchat subscribers who earns thousands in revenue per Snapchat video he creates on average.

Lens Fuel

One of the factors that’s fueling all this lens creator activity (besides financial incentive) is Snap’s efforts to empower creators. It recognizes that lens creators kick off the “virtuous cycle” that attracts users, which then attracts more developers, more users… then brand marketers.

These efforts include Lens Studio updates that better equip creators. For example, at Snap Lens Fest in December, it launched tools for creator exposure (profiles and networking) and monetization. The latter includes lens-based links to creators’ eCommerce stores.

Furthering this monetization potential, creators can build “lens packs,” available for brands to purchase. These flow into Camera Kit, which is Snap’s API that lets brands integrate and customize Snap lenses directly in their apps, rather than build experiences from scratch.

Meanwhile, Snap’s AR innovation lab Ghost lets lens creators apply for grant funding up to $150,000 to develop new lenses. This follows the recent launch of AR Lab and Arcadia, which similarly support lens development — albeit more geared towards brand advertisers.

Lastly, Lens Studio 4.10 added deeper analytics features. That way, creators can get a better sense of what lenses resonate most. They can use these demand signals to course correct or optimize their time – particularly those that make a living on Lens Studio like the folks above.

Add it all up and it’s clear that the stakes continue to raise for lens creators. Snap is driven to attract them to the platform for the above reasons, so the trend should continue. In fact, things could accelerate as competition heats up from the mighty TikTok. We’ll be watching…

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