Starbucks Turns Snapchat Selfies Into Playfully Fun Ads to Promote Its New Loyalty Program

Will it help ease recent backlash?

Starbucks pushes its loyalty program on Snapchat. Twitter: @SashaHalima

Starbucks is the latest brand betting on Snapchat's 6-month-old Sponsored Lens ad format that overlays graphics on the app's ephemeral photos and videos. Today, the brand is running a Sponsored Lens to promote its recently revamped loyalty program and mobile app.

Adding the sponsored graphic to a "snap" makes users' eyes bigger and then turns them into a pair of stars—the symbol the brand uses for its loyalty program—that then explode.

Adweek previously reported that the one-day ad format costs $350,000. Brands like Gatorade and Fox have tested it to reach the app's millions of millennials in recent months.

Starbucks is running the ads to promote its new loyalty program, which has received mixed reviews since rolling out earlier this year. Its popular Starbucks Rewards program changed from rewarding consumers for how often they shop at the coffee chain to how much money they spend there. Previously, customers got a free coffee or food item after making 12 purchases. Now, the program awards two stars for every dollar spent, and 125 stars are required to earn a reward, meaning people need to spend $62.50 to earn a free drink.

In the week after the change, data from YouGov found that the brand's "buzz" score, a measure of positive and negative chatter, dropped 50 percent in February.

Along with the new guidelines, Starbucks has also overhauled its mobile app with a new design that lets people redeem their rewards when they pay. The app also has a location-based feature that shows users what music is playing in stores as part of a partnership with Spotify.

According to Starbucks, 17 million people use the app, which processes 7 million orders a month or roughly 21 percent of U.S. in-store sales. That's up from 15 percent in 2014.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.