‘Unparalleled’: Snapchat snaps up ad talent ahead of IPO

Snapchat is on a hiring spree as it prepares for an IPO, raiding everyone from Google and Facebook to old media for talent. To onlookers, the messaging app’s ramp-up is reminiscent of Facebook’s ramp-up before it.

To Maikel O’Hanlon, vp of social media strategy at Horizon Media, the clearest sign of the way Snapchat has bulked up is in the number of people copied on emails he gets from Snapchat. With other up-and-coming platforms before it, it was hard to even get a response from one person.

“I’m seeing three, four people cc’ed,” he said. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen hiring at this speed or breadth of this support services been paralleled before. They seem to be ready to handle an onslaught of demand.”

Snapchat has been hiring a high caliber of people that speaks to its advertising ambitions as it prepares to go public, most recently hiring old media’s New York Post president David Brinker to lead business development for its content division.

Of course, for agency, ad tech and publishing talent, Snapchat is a lure for a potentially lucrative payday, as Snapchat is rumored to be contemplating a blockbuster IPO. Facebook similarly saw an influx of media talent in the run-up to going public.

“I recall Facebook going through that phase, hiring big names,” said Justin Choi, CEO of Nativo, a native ad tech platform. “To me it’s a sign of a company that’s planning to have a very scaled business that they’re going to grow. [CEO Evan Spiegel] is bringing in people with the DNA of advertising and media.”

Mike Dossett, manager of digital strategy at RPA, said it’s significant that Snapchat is hiring people from platforms who have experience selling big campaigns to big brands, something Snapchat wants to replicate. Dossett has a personal barometer of Snapchat’s growth: His company and Snapchat both have the same dentist on their plan, and these days it seems like the waiting room at his dentist’s office is all Snapchat.

More recently, Snapchat’s hiring spree has been focused on New York City, where it agreed to bring its headcount to nearly 400 people in New York over the next few years in exchange for $18 million in tax breaks. LinkedIn lists 171 people as working for Snapchat in New York City and its site lists around 20 openings in New York City, mostly in partnerships and revenue-related areas.

A Snap spokesperson said the company has over 100 people based in New York, largely in partnerships, sales, and creative strategy, but declined to get into its hiring plans.

Snapchat’s hiring trajectory comes as its business gets more complicated and it faces new competition from other social platforms like Instagram. It may have started as a messaging app, but as it’s introduced publisher channels and advertising, it’s needed to staff accordingly. That’s also meant that Snapchat, which initially called advertising “creepy,” has to build the ad infrastructure — both in tech and in people — required for a big ad business to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook.

With all the new people it’s brought in, the company has managed to tell its story well, throughout all its product and positioning changes, Dossett said. “They used to come in and say, we’re a messaging company,” he said. “Now, the first slide, it’s ‘Snap Inc., we’re a camera company.’ That’s interesting in that they’re putting themselves as hardware first. That’s not a very common theme in the digital advertising industry. One of the worst things you can do is have a complex story because people want a clean simple answer to what they are.”


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