Snapchat is enjoying a boom in political advertising
Snapchat is becoming an increasingly popular political advertising platform as campaigns aim to target a younger audience and leverage the detailed user data of the messaging app.
The social media app, which is actively used by more than 200 million people, has seen a surge in political advertising revenue in recent months, according to the Washington Center for Responsive Politics.
This was partly fueled by the younger demographic of Snapchat users, according to experts. However, some say that it is also fueled by the fact that Snapchat continues to allow advertisers to target very specific groups of people, even if other platforms are considering pulling out of it in the face of intense criticism.
Anna Massoglia, researcher at CRP, said, “Snapchat enables advertisers to target political ads to very specific characteristics of the users they want to see and offers a variety of data on the targeting of their political ad purchases.”
Tristan Hotham, a researcher at Who Targets Me who tracks political advertisements on social media, said, “In the past five years we’ve seen Facebook eroding under 25s, so politicians are looking elsewhere to target this younger audience reach .”
According to the CRP figures, Snapchat sold $ 5.4 million worth of political ads this year, of which $ 3.6 million in the past three months. From mid-2018, when it started cataloging its political ads, to mid-September that year, when it launched a more detailed ad library, it earned just $ 2.5 million.
During the same period, Google made tens of millions of dollars from political advertising, while Facebook made hundreds of millions. But these two companies’ sales have remained stable over the past year, while those of their smaller competitor have grown strongly.
Snapchat declined to comment.
Online advertising has become one of the most controversial issues in the political election campaign in recent months.
Democratic candidates in the presidential campaign have particularly criticized Facebook for refusing to check political advertisements for facts and to allow campaigns targeting very small groups of people. They say that such “microtargeting” allows candidates like Donald Trump to make false claims on the internet without the majority of people being able to see what is being said and therefore questioning it.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, maintains his company’s policy of not fact-checking political advertisements, but has suggested ending microtargeting.
Google has already prevented advertisers from selecting target groups based on profiles they have created. Facebook and Snapchat still allow such “custom audiences”, although Snapchat has a fact-checking team and has rejected several for incorporating falsehoods.
In general, Snapchat has been soliciting politicians to create profiles on the platform, and this year it launched 2020 election coverage on its curated news channel.
Snapchat’s ad library shows that campaigns are particularly keen to find younger voters on the platform and capitalize on the careful selection of their target audiences.
For example, Pete Buttigieg, a frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race, recently posted a six-second video talking about his support for publicly funded education. Snapchat data shows that its campaign targeted people in Iowa over the age of 17 who were “coworkers,” “green life enthusiasts,” “political news watchers” or “television viewers”.
Some Democrats have commended Snapchat for reviewing its ads. Others fear, however, that such careful microtargeting could harm American democracy.
Ms. Massoglia said, “Micro-targeting can also make it difficult to uncover whether there is a hidden agenda behind ads that promote or suppress voters, as even ads that appear to be impartial can target people who are likely to vote certain way. “