Snap is still far away from the more aggressive approaches of Facebook and Google, which have used precise ad targeting to make billions in profits. As a result, the giants can outspend Snap on talent and fresh content, and bankroll development of potentially expensive new products, such as hardware that taps into augmented reality, or tech that blends computer images onto a user's real view of the world.
Because of Snap's vision of ads as less intrusive than most digital advertising -- more like old-fashioned television spots made for a broader audience -- Snap ads must have a wider appeal, with high production values, and be spliced into the rest of the app in an interesting way. During the Super Bowl, for example, users could choose to adorn their selfies with either Falcons' or Patriots' football helmets or cascade gushers of colorful Gatorade over their heads.
Snap's requirements set a high bar for its partners. The small group of media and entertainment outlets that appear on Snapchat have tough targets to meet, according to a person familiar with the process. If Snap isn't happy, it suggests changes to the content, and if the material doesn't get enough traffic, the providers fear they could be booted off the app, according to a current and a former editor of content for Snapchat Discover, the section of the app where publishers post content.
Until lately, a lot of Snap's advertising has come directly from brands like Coca-Cola Co. and Yum Brands Inc.'s Taco Bell. It has been slow to woo Madison Avenue's big ad agencies, which have bigger budgets and can commit to longer contracts, and to form partnerships that would enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. Last summer, Snap hired Viacom's Jeff Lucas to help court big deals .
As the IPO has neared, Snap has signed deals with Oracle Data Cloud, Nielsen and others to ramp up its use of metrics that will dispel some of the mystery that has enshrouded the effectiveness of advertising on the app.
The stock-exchange listing will force more transparency about the business, including regular updates on user and engagement data. Even so, Mr. Spiegel will continue to keep a tight grip on the company after it goes public. Snap is selling to the public only shares that have no voting power. Afterward, Mr. Spiegel and co-founder and chief technologist Bobby Murphy will retain more than 90% of the voting shares.
Write to Betsy Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org and Georgia Wells at Georgia.Wells@wsj.com