Snapchat Tried to Troll Gun Control Group into Ad Buy

Warned NRA might buy ads against gun control group's event

Snapchat billboard / AP
March 2, 2017

The social media site Snapchat tried to get Everytown for Gun Safety to make a major ad buy by warning that the National Rifle Association might snap up the ad space if they didn't.

After Snapchat's editorial arm offered the gun control group free promotion for one of their events, the company's advertising arm pitched them on buying special filters and lenses during the promotion. Emails between the social media company and gun control group, first reported by Mic, show Snapchat's pitch. Mic claims that Rob Saliterman, Snapchat's head of political sales, emailed Everytown a number of times in early 2016 seeking a $150,000 ad buy.

"I just learned our News Team is doing a Live Story on National Gun Violence Awareness Day," Saliterman said in one email. "I would urgently like to speak with you about advertising opportunities within the story, as there will be three ad slots."

Saliterman then warned the gun control group that the NRA might want to buy ad space against their event if they didn't act first.

"We are also talking to the NRA about running ads within the story," he said.

When Everytown reportedly responded that they could not afford the proposed ad buy and complained about the possibility that the NRA might buy ads to run against their gun control event, Saliterman replied that that's how advertising on most media platforms works and the only way to guarantee the NRA's ads wouldn't show up in their event was if they bought the ad space first.

"That's really unfortunate news on your budget, as Snapchat reaches 41% of 18-34 year olds in the U.S. on a daily basis and I don't believe there's a more efficient way to reach that audience," he said. "To be clear, the story has the potential to be bought by any advertiser, including the NRA, which will enable the advertiser to run three 10-sec video ads within the story. This is analogous to how any advertiser could buy advertising in a TV news program about violence. The advertising will not impact the editorial content within the story as our teams are independent."

In the end, Everytown didn't buy the proposed ad space and backed out of the free promotion as well.