The biggest problem with Snapchat’s geofilter product

Snapchat’s current geofilter product is a nightmare for event managers, brands, and any commercial business because anyone can coat-tail or hijack the space.

Let’s say you’re holding a political rally at City Hall, and you want to buy a geofilter for the augmented Snapchat space at the event. When you go to purchase it from Snapchat, your plan gets rejected.

Why? Someone else has already bought the augmented space.

Snapchat’s current policy is “first come, first served,” and you can’t reserve a geofilter more than 30 days in advance. The first person to book at 12:01 AM 30 days ahead of an event will always get the geofilter. There’s also a cap on the number of geofilters that can exist within a designated space.

This means that anyone can hijack your digital space and promote a brand, cause or idea… as long as they “get” there first.

In the case of the political rally, your opponent uses the geofilter to blanket the augmented Snapchat space with something counter to the cause. Something nasty. Something that will make your event attendees sick.

That sucks for the group holding the event.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a heated political move. It could just be a cheap, cringe-worthy ad. Or a company trying to sponsor a space where they don’t feel like buying the physical or digital ad space from the event holder.

It just happened to us at Disrupt.

Reflik advertised in our augmented space without being a sponsor. I have nothing against the former Disrupt Startup Alley company. We love that startups want to be a part of our events even if founders can’t travel there.

They played within the rules Snapchat made, but the rules need to change.

One solution would be to introduce a verified tier that gives you control over your own space. If the venue owners see their space being used inappropriately, they could request a take-down from Snapchat.

Another solution would be to remove limits on the number of geofilters that can exist in an augmented space. This could create a spammy experience on Snapchat, but at least if you forgot to book the geofilter 30 days ahead of time you would still be able to make a last-minute play with filters to engage your Snapchat audience. Snapchat would also make more money by doing this.

But there’s a better opportunity out there for Snapchat; one that could make them a lot more money off the product.

Snapchat should introduce an auction-style bidding system for geofilters.

Think about it. It makes a lot of sense.

A bidding system would net Snapchat more money, eliminate low-quality advertisers that can’t compete and make the system less of a headache for brands, event planners, and commercial businesses.

There’s a reason that companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter all use live bidding systems for ad networks: It works.

Snapchat has made a name for itself by always doing the opposite. Their ad platform has a weird set of rules with unconventional formats, and the geofilter product is no different.

The reason Snapchat geofilters are an increasingly valuable ad unit is because everyday folks can play on the same level as big brands, generating longer and more attentive eyeballs than other ads.

While it’s important that the rules allow for brands and commercial businesses to protect their space, it’s equally important that geofilters maintain their grass-roots experience.

Snapchat has always done a great job pushing the creative envelope, but on the back end of their geofilters system it might help them to do what brands, advertisers, and businesses want, and what advertising titans are already doing: create a bidding platform. This would result in fewer headaches for advertisers and more fans of the geofilters product in the ad industry.

Here’s to hoping no one puts a fugly geofilter on your wedding venue.