Snapchat Snags Google Exec to Campaign for Political Ad Dollars

Mobile App's Young Audience, Local Event Feeds Could Appeal to Candidates

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Snapchat headquarters in Venice Beach, Calif.
Snapchat headquarters in Venice Beach, Calif. Credit: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg

Snapchat has launched its campaign for all the political ad dollars up for grabs heading into next year's election.

Snapchat has hired Rob Saliterman to run its political ad sales team. Mr. Saliterman had been leading Google's political ad sales efforts in the U.S. since 2011 and was a member of the White House communications team under President George W. Bush, according to his LinkedIn profile.

A Snapchat spokeswoman confirmed the hire after Politico first reported the news on Monday.

Snapchat would likely appeal to political campaigns because of its audience of voting-age young people. The messaging app is perceived to be most popular among college and high school students, but 70% of its users are actually 18 years old or older, as Ad Age has previously reported.

But political campaigns may have to contend with Snapchat's current lack of ad targeting. As President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign showed, political advertisers are accustomed to being able to use all the data they're able to gather on the electorate in order to pinpoint which types of voters need to see their ads and where.

To date, Snapchat has held back from letting advertisers aim their ads based on its users' information like age and gender. However the company has been working on letting advertisers only show ads to people that are of a certain age, according to people familiar with the matter. This so-called "age-gating" is primarily intended for alcoholic beverage brands to ensure they only advertise to drinking-age audiences. It's unclear whether this age-gating could be applied to people who use Snapchat and would be at least 18 years by Election Day 2016. The spokeswoman declined to comment on any plans to allow age-gating for ads.

Local ad targeting, however, is an option. Snapchat has been tweaking its ad-supported "Live Story" feeds to backdoor its way into letting advertisers target people in certain locations. Snapchat has been pitching advertisers on running ads within its localized Live Stories that are tied to a specific city or college campus. Those local ads can be had for $50,000 a pop while ads within the national "Live Story" feeds start at $100,000 per ad.

Political campaigns may be interested in Snapchat's new Two Pennies ads, which are 10-second video ads slotted within Snapchat's publisher portal Discover that contains articles and videos from political-news outlets like CNN, Yahoo News and DailyMail. These ads cost advertisers two cents per view, though Snapchat will charge an advertiser even if someone only views the ad for a millisecond, according to the spokeswoman.

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