The Political Ad Wars Come to Snapchat

A new political ad unit has arrived ahead of the Republican candidates’ debate: the Snapchat filter.

As users in Ohio log into Snapchat and swipe on photographs and videos to add a filter, a bold, orange option, proclaiming “How I Feel About the Bad Iran Deal,” will sit among more colorful Ohio and Cleveland city filters. Users are encouraged to center this particular filter around a selfie, but they can add the filter over anything they choose to share on the platform, from shots of their breakfast to shots of their debate watch party.

But it is not Snapchat taking a political position and creating that filter — it is Secure America Now, a foreign policy advocacy group that paid Snapchat to place the filter in the list of ones available to Ohio users.

It is a rather nontraditional method of advertising, one that is slightly risky as it requires users to put the content out there on the network themselves, rather than groups relying on a guaranteed video spot. But it fits in with Snapchat’s rather nontraditional social media platform, an example of the expanding options available to political advertisers who are often clawing for a way to stand out in the digital sphere.

The filter is just a part of what could be one of Snapchat’s biggest nights in the political advertising arena. It is lining up targeted video ads around the country that will appear in its “live story” of the debate, which is a combination of user-generated and original content on Snapchat’s “My Story” page. For the debate story, Snapchat is selling three ad slots, at 10 seconds each, that can be targeted down to the state level.

Users in Iowa and New Hampshire will see the first ad on Snapchat from a left-leaning group, NextGen Climate, an environmental group founded by the billionaire Tom Steyer. The ad will feature a call to action on climate change with a link to the group’s state organizing pages.

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