LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 03: A finger is posed next to the Snapchat app logo on an iPad on August 3, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
A gun safety group was in talks to run a free promotional campaign on Snapchat last year when it was hit with an alarming sales pitch.
If Everytown for Gun Safety didn’t buy up each of the ad slots within its video campaign, a Snapchat ad salesman warned, there was a good chance the National Rifle Association would.
That’s the scoop via a series of leaked emails, published in part by Mic on Wednesday, which offer an inside look at Snap’s aggressive sales tactics. The news comes, of course, the day before the company’s public offering is set to drop.
In the email exchange, Snap’s head of political sales, Rob Saliterman, tells the Michael Bloomberg-backed nonprofit that Snap is in talks to sell the ad slots within its unpaid "live story" to the NRA and pushes the group to buy them instead.
"I just learned our News Team is doing a Live Story on National Gun Violence Awareness Day," Saliterman’s message began. "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."
An Everytown rep responds that the $150,000 quoted price won’t fit the group’s budget. The group also says it’s concerned with the prospect of an antagonistic lobbying group interjecting itself between Everytown’s planned string of videos featuring survivors of gun violence and calls for reform.
It’s not unusual for media salespeople to use competing bids from rival advertisers as bargaining chips when locking down deals. But in a case involving a charity and a controversial and notoriously aggressive lobbying group, the optics don’t look good for Snap.
A Snap spokesperson claims the situation arose as an inevitable consequence of the firewall it has in place between its editorial team and sales department—the same barrier that exists within most reputable news organization.
The company’s editorial staff can decide what type of video content they want to highlight for free within the app’s Discover section, but they have no say over the ads placed within them.
The company says that as long as the NRA follows the company’s "political guidelines" (meaning it can’t actually depict guns), Snap can’t stop the lobbying group from buying whatever space it pleases on a first-come-first-serve basis.
In the spokesperson’s telling, Saliterman simply wanted to tip Everytown off to this possibility.
Everytown and the NRA have been locked in a fierce public marketing battle since the former group was founded in 2014 to push for more gun control. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Everytown’s billionaire backer, has said that its goal is to match the NRA in influence.
The NRA previously ran Snapchat filter ads that targeted Bloomberg by name during a 2015 presidential primary debate.
In the emails, Saliterman nevertheless attempts to persuade Everytown that NRA ads wouldn’t undercut its message.
"This is analogous to how any advertiser could buy advertising in a TV news program about violence," he writes in the final message. "The advertising will not impact the editorial content within the story as our teams are independent."
Everytown ultimately decided against both the free promotion and the ads. Snap then ran a house-made live story called "Guns in America" later that month without Everytown’s participation.
Everytown declined to comment on the emails.