On June 15, the LA Times reported on an innovative way that Snapchat is monetizing its popular ephemeral messaging service–sponsored geofilters. Snapchat already lets users add backgrounds to their selfies that are specific to the user’s location. The effect is like a photo booth image of the user in front of a picture postcard image. Snapchat is now offering advertisers the opportunity, for a price, to create sponsored geofilters. McDonald’s is the first brand to sign on to this program. Snapchat users at any McDonald’s location can choose from a number of whimsical images of burgers and fries to tell all their followers that they are lovin’ it. This promises a level of user engagement that could be very attractive to advertisers. The user is choosing to put her or himself inside an advertisement, and to disseminate the ad to her or his circle of friends and followers.
The interesting thing about this program is that creates a new advertising medium that could only exist on social media. Although the internet has revolutionized ad placement and targeting, much of digital advertising strongly resembles its predecessors. Video prerolls are just TV commercials. Display ads on Google and Facebook look like magazine ads, albeit with interactivity. Snapchat’s sponsored geofilters make creative use of social media’s unique properties. We can expect to see more clever ways for brands to get their stories out as the digital ecosystem matures.