Snapchat aired its first-ever TV ad this past weekend during the NCAA’s Final Four, and it appears to have set its sights on a new audience: your parents. The ad bills Snapchat as “a camera, where how you feel matters more than how you look,” while painting it as an easy way to take photos of messy babies and put dog ears on grandma.
But by framing itself as another milquetoast social app designed for flaunting idyllic vacations and family reunions, the ad completely ignores what makes Snapchat appealing in the first place. Those highly curated shots are already going up on Instagram Stories. Snapchat is the place where you trade dumb jokes with your friends, non-essential thoughts, or show off the trashy nights you don’t want preserved past a five-second timer. Snapchat is not for warm-and-fuzzy family moments. It’s not a “camera” for your “feelings.” Snapchat is for shitposting.
Or at least, it used to be. Once the preferred method of young people for sexts and ephemeral videos starring your best friend on a 3AM bender, Snapchat has taken a plunge of late. After Kylie Jenner confessed that she doesn’t use the app much anymore, the company’s stock price took a tumble to the tune of roughly a $1.5 billion loss in market value. Just last month, Chrissy Teigen and Rihanna publicly condemned the platform after it featured an ad asking if users “would rather slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown.”
As celebrities abandon ship and convince their followers to do so as well, Snap’s demonstrated interest in a broader, older audience feels more like a survival tactic than a useful promotion of a platform that launched six years ago. (It took the company a full five years to release any instructions whatsoever on Snapchat’s convoluted and often maligned user interface; and even then, it was buried deep in its IPO filing last year.) Its feeble attempts to win over everyone either misunderstands its own product at its core, or signals a desire to re-frame that product as a second-string replacement for platforms that already exist. Either way, the advertisement signals a bleak future on the horizon for Snapchat.