One Instagram post from Rihanna wiped out about $800 million of popular social media company Snapchat’s market capitalization in a day. There’s no need to shed any tears for Snapchat because it got what it deserved.
Recently, Snapchat rolled out a controversial ad for a mobile game called “Would You Rather.” In this particular ad, it asked users if they would prefer to slap Rihanna or punch her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. Apparently, it tried to poke fun at Brown’s 2009 felony assault of Rihanna. Many of us probably remember seeing those awful pictures of Rihanna’s bruised face after the assault. Brown was sentenced to five years of probation following the assault.
Since then, Rihanna has become a poster child for victims of domestic abuse. In a 2015 interview with Vanity Fair, Rihanna said she felt she has been “punished over and over” by the attention surrounding her assault. Now in 2018, Snapchat decided to “punish” her again through an insensitive ad, which both makes light of her suffering as well as the act of domestic violence.
Rihanna called Snapchat out on her Instagram Story. “Now SNAPCHAT I know you already know you ain’t my fav app out there! But I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess! I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb!”
She’s right. As a $20 billion corporation, ads like this have to go through an approval process before being released to public. So you can’t help wondering how broken Snapchat’s internal process has to be or how bad the judgment of its staff has to have to let this ad go public.
Rihanna emphasized in her post that she called out Snapchat not for herself, but for all domestic violence victims. She wrote, “You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV victims and made a joke of it. This isn’t about my personal feelings, cause I don’t have much of them, but all the women, children and men that have been victims of DV in the past and especially the ones who haven’t made it out yet …. you let us down! Shame on you.”
Rihanna is right that domestic violence is a serious problem in the U.S. According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) statistics,
- On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
Domestic violence is not something to make fun of. Given the fact that the majority of Snapchat users are young people, parents should be concerned that this ad seems to convey the message to youth that somehow domestic violence is cool. That is very troubling.
Snapchat has since taken the ad down. In a statement, it said, “This advertisement is disgusting and never should have appeared on our service. We are so sorry we made the terrible mistake of allowing it through our review process. We are investigating how that happened so that we can make sure it never happens again.”
But Rihanna isn’t buying Snapchat’s apology. In her post, she demanded Snapchat “throw the whole app-oligy away.” Her fans, social media followers and even some other celebrities have taken her message as a call for action to delete Snapchat from their phones and they did just that.
Investors took notice too. Shares of the Snapchat parent company (Snap) dropped 3.6 percent to close at $17.20 on Thursday. So one post from Rihanna wiped out $800 million of Snap’s market capitalization in one day! Yet, this is second time this year that Snapchat paid a heavy price for alienating a celebrity and many of its users.
Just last month, after Snapchat rolled out its redesign, Kylie Jenner, one of the most followed people on Snapchat, expressed her displeasure in the redesign by tweeting, “Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” Kylie Jenner hasn’t left Snapchat yet, but many users did. About 16 hours later, Snap’s share price dropped 8 percent and about $1 billion of market capitalization evaporated. Apparently Snapchat hasn’t learned anything from its previous missteps and decided to double down on something even more awful and stupid.
Snapchat is supposed to be the cool kid in town. But desensitizing and mocking domestic violence is not cool. The fallout of this ad shows the only party who has been slapped, punched and disgraced is Snapchat. An apology isn’t enough. Snapchat needs to fix its broken process and probably hold some people in charge of creating or approving this ad responsible. Hopefully it also learned a good lesson: when you mock a strong woman like Rihanna, she will hit you back 10 times harder.