Hidlo Studios - Snapchat Advertising

Written by, | Sep 5, 2018 11:49 AM

Ben Tarnoff and his friends weren't having much luck offering their marketing concepts to Philadelphia businesses. Then they came up with an idea that changed their lives.

"Snapchat geofilters had just come out. They were brand new. No one knew what Snapchat was, what a geofilter was, or how to get one on Snapchat. So my partner and I started going around to bars and clubs, places where we knew kids with Snapchat would be taking pictures and videos."

For the uninitiated, a geofilter is a kind of image that lays over a picture or video taken with a smartphone. It's a way of letting mobile users share their geographic location and what they are doing with friends. 

Ben's team described to business owners the marketing potential of the new app and geofilters. The idea is that a restaurant, store, museum or any other business can create a geofilter allowing current customers to brand pictures taken inside that location. When those customers send the images out to their friends, the branding provides free advertising for the business. Ben explained the social concept of FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out and its value as a promotional tool, hopefully bringing in more customers.

"I'm at a bar. It's a beautiful day out. My buddy's doing something funny. I take a picture of him, put the filter on, now it's branded with that bar's name. I put the picture on my Snapchat story, send it out and instantly 300 people get a word-of-mouth recommendation from me. They see it and are like "Oh, they're having a great time! I need to go there!"


Ben Tarnoff

Once Ben's team got a few businesses interested in their idea, Hidlo Studios was born. 

As a student at Penn State University, Ben shared Hidlo's business model with the team at Penn State's coworking space, Happy Valley Launch Box. They asked a lot of questions. Ben didn't have all the answers.

Hidlo Studios was an established business working with clients, but Ben could instantly see the benefit of working with the LaunchBox mentors, many had extensive experience in advertising and business development. 

"I realized I knew nothing about starting a business, growing a business, sustaining a business. They helped me minimize mistakes before I made them. I think the most important thing I've learned is the ability to pivot, to adapt, learn on the fly, and take the feedback."


A geofilter over an image

One of those pivots came at a tradeshow while Ben was talking to a potential major client. After a detailed pitch for Hidlo Studios services, the rep said he loved the ideas, but his company could do the same thing using their own corporate marketing team. The Hidlo team was stunned. To win major clients they would have to go back to the drawing board.    

"So, on the last day of the trade show, my partners and I stayed up until I think 5:30 in the morning, brainstorming a way to meet the unmet needs of these big buyers. And what we came up with was the software."

Hidlo Studios is now developing the world's first Snapchat geofilter management software. Their program greatly reduces the amount of time it takes a company to plan, schedule and analyze geofilter campaigns. 

One step closer to commercial success, the Hidlo Studios team gives a lot of credit to the advice they've received from the folks at the Happy Valley LaunchBox.

"It's comforting knowing that there's always people behind us to help us with any of our problems. Honestly, without the guidance of the mentors, Hidlo might not still be running right now."


Ben Tarnoff: My company is Hidlo Studios. It's a Snapchat geofilter marketing company.

A geofilter is a location-based design you can place over a photo you take with an app.

Ben's company was having a tough time getting noticed by big corporations, so he talked to his professor at Penn State.

Ben Tarnoff: Hit me with a lot of questions that I wasn't prepared for. It was eye opening.

The professor thought Penn State's Happy Valley LaunchBox could help. At the Launchbox, Ben met mentors with advertising and business development experience. He received a lot of great advice.

Ben Tarnoff: The most important thing I've learned is the ability to pivot and the ability to adapt and learn on the fly and take the feedback you get and be able to change directions.

Today, Ben's company is moving in a new direction.

Ben Tarnoff: We are developing the world's first Snapchat geofilter management software.

The software will help businesses create their own geofilters, which will give customers a fun way to share where they are and what they're doing.

Ben Tarnoff: It creates FOMO, you know, the Fear Of Missing Out.

For a business, that means more customers.

Ben's team has already signed several new clients and is in talks with more companies.


Find more information about Hidlo Studios at


Happy Valley LaunchBox programs are open to everyone (community members, Penn State students, faculty, and staff). Founded in February of 2016, LaunchBox is a signature program of Invent Penn State, a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation, and student career success. Happy Valley LaunchBox is one of 17 innovation hubs across the Commonwealth. Their mission is to be the "hub" that connects local entrepreneurs to the support, resources, and facilities they need to build a sustainable and scalable business with a viable plan for growth.

By centralizing no-cost services, they help entrepreneurs to avoid the common mistakes startups often face and enable them to focus their time on de-risking and growing their businesses.

Learn more about Penn State University's Happy Valley LaunchBox at

Support for Innovation U comes from PNC.


Innovation U is a project from WITF, where we share stories of entrepreneurs and Pennsylvania universities who are working together to make new ideas come to life.  Learn more at

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