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Snapchat Expands Ad Options, Offering Sponsorships For Its ‘Geofilters’

This addition marks the first location-based promotional opportunity on the Millennial-favorite platform.

Timed photo-sharing app Snapchat is set to expand its ad offerings by allowing brands to sponsor its “geofilters,” enabling a new way for marketers to connect with consumers on the millennial-favorite platform.

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Example of a geofilter for Philadelphia

Snapchat introduced geofilters — illustrations that can be overlaid onto photos while in specific locations —back in December 2014, and they were unbranded; for example, a “snapper” on the island of Manhattan could choose a geofilter that simply read “Manhattan” in creative text. But now, Snapchat has found a way to monetize the location sharing.

On Monday, McDonald’s became the first brand to sponsor a geofilter, allowing customers at U.S. McDonald’s locations to adorn their Snapchat posts with an illustration of a McDonald’s double cheeseburger and a pouch of fries, among other options. Other brands eager to communicate with millennials — particularly national chains with big budgets — are likely to follow suit in the near future.

“Snapchat is about storytelling and geofilters are a fun, visual way for Snapchatters to tell their friends where they are and what they’re up to,” said Mary Ritti, a Snapchat spokeswoman, in a statement.

And that’s just the key — sponsored geofilters allow brands to advertise within the app in a way that feels native to it. Since the filters are already an established part of the Snapchat experience, brands that use them are less likely to be seen as an interruption by users.

This isn’t Snapchat’s first foray into sponsorships, and it would appear that the company has seen success with them in past endeavors. The app began to explore sponsorships for real-time sports stories as a part of its “Our Story” feature in March.

However, the location layer that geofilters could bring to a marketing effort is wholly innovative. Snapchat has always been an inherently location-based app — snapchatters use it to show friends where they are and what they’re doing in real time — but this is the first time that the app has allowed brands to advertise in a location-specific way.

And while the sponsorships are primarily intended to drive brand affinity, it’s very possible that a user who walks by a McDonald’s while on Snapchat could see the filter and opt to go inside and make a purchase — and brands may begin to experiment with this discovery aspect before long.

As Tim Hickle, digital marketing manager at MilesHerndon, told the LA Times, “there is a lot of unexplored potential for geofilters. [They could begin] to help people locate things they didn’t even know were there.”