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Will Snapchat Be Relevant for Political Advertisers in 2016?

POSTED one year ago BY Go BIG Media, Inc.

by Sean J. Miller
Campaigns and Elections Magazine

Snapchat is touting its advertising potential but the cycle is moving too fast for the company to capture a sizable share of campaigns budgets, digital consultants say. 

The company is searching for acquisitions while teasing new advertising features it hopes will match Facebook in targeting and verification. Company executives, according to Ad Age, “have even floated the possibility of redesigning its Stories tab to into a algorithmically ranked feed a la Facebook's news feed that would be ordered based on the stories — collections of posts, or ‘snaps,’ publicly uploaded in the last 24 hours — that individuals are most likely to want to check out based on their past viewing behavior.”

Now, there are signs the company, which boasts 100 million daily users, is approaching it’s moms-on-Facebook moment. For instance, there was recently a how-to-use Snapchat column in the Wall Street Journal’s print edition.

But digital consultants say a lack of targeting options and the reality that campaign budgets are already focused on existing channels means that resources are unlikely to shift dramatically in this cycle.    

“For 2016, it won't have much of a strategic impact beyond signaling that a campaign is forward thinking,” said Brian Ross Adams, a digital consultant based in Los Angeles.

The frustration among those who work in digital politics stems from Snapchat’s lack of options to target voters. It’s something the company is actively working to address —teasing their in-development targeting options to several political tech strategists so far this year. But without those targeting capabilities Snapchat is little more than a novelty for candidates and campaigns.  

“Snapchat absolutely is the next digital battleground — it generates over seven billion video views per day — but it’s hard to tell if that war will be waged this election cycle,” said Phillip Stutts, CEO of Go BIG Media, Inc. “Until Snapchat allows for on-boarding the voter file, a-la Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I think it is still more of an effective communications tactic than a targeting strategy in the world of politics.”

Ian Patrick Hines, founder of The Beag Co., compared Snapchat’s current position to that of Twitter in 2008. “Generally, it feels nascent,” he said. “Facebook and Google are still the cornerstones of our digital strategies.”

For now, DSPolitical’s Jim Walsh questioned the app’s usefulness given that it doesn't currently enable clients to match their offline universes against its user database.

“It’s not the ideal platform for political campaigns yet,” Walsh said. But once the company changes its data-matching policy? “We believe it could be an incredibly powerful tool.” 

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