Leaked emails put spotlight on Snapchat sales tactics

Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun safety and gun control nonprofit backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, faced an awkward decision while working with Snapchat last year, according to leaked emails obtained by Mic.

Everytown was collaborating with the Snapchat news team on a “Guns in America” Live Story tied to National Gun Violence Awareness Day. This prompted Snapchat’s head of political sales Rob Saliterman (who’d already been discussing an ad campaign with Everytown) to send an email to Everytown that said, “I would urgently like to speak with you about advertising opportunities within the story, as there will be three ad slots. We are also talking to the NRA about running ads within the story.”

The nonprofit said that the ads would be beyond its budget, and it also expressed concern about the possible NRA ads. Saliterman, who previously held a similar role at Google, said that “the story has the potential to be bought by any advertiser, including the NRA,” but added, “The advertising will not impact the editorial content within the story as our teams are independent.”

When we reached out to Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc., a spokesperson argued there was no breakdown here in the division between the editorial and advertising teams. Instead, they said the editorial team created their calendar independently, then sent it to the ad team to sell advertising on those stories.

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The NRA then found out about the story through the normal sales channels and expressed interest in buying one of the ads, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis (assuming they meet Snapchat’s political guidelines). In Snap’s view, Saliterman was simply providing Everytown with information that it would want to know — it’s hard to imagine the organization have been happy if Snapchat ran NRA ads with the story and didn’t tell Everytown this was going to happen.

None of Snap’s account seems to be contradicted by Mic’s reporting. And to be clear, the article doesn’t really suggest that Snap let the ad team influence editorial. So why is this getting any attention at all? Perhaps because there’s something unseemly, or just plain gross, about considering an NRA ad for this particular Live Story — and then using that possibility as a negotiating point.

How did Everytown feel about this? While a spokesperson declined to comment, Snap said that the organization did end up contributing to the “Guns in America” story after all.

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