Countering critics in the advertising industry, Snapchat's chief executive said that the first two ads on the content-sharing app have been very effective.
Spiegel's comments came during a lively outdoor discussion at think tank Rand Corp.'s Politics Aside conference in Santa Monica. NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers and Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu were among guests who spoke earlier in the day.
Many advertisers didn't react well to Snapchat's pitch, Spiegel said. They wanted Snapchat to collect information about its users and then use the data to direct ads only to those who would find them relevant.
"We said, 'why do you want targeting so badly?' and they said, 'well we want to show this ad to people that want to see it,' " Spiegel said. "So we said, 'why don't we just ask them if they want to see it?' "
Last month, users saw an option in the app to open a short video ad for Universal Pictures' movie "Ouija." This week, the second ad was an option to see a trailer for Universal's "Dumb and Dumber To."
"You would not believe how effective this ad unit has been for us," Spiegel said. "Our internal metrics show that the second ad actually outperformed the first one."
Doug Neil, Universal's executive vice president for digital marketing, said in an email that the initial numbers for the second ad "were very encouraging." He had previously said that the first ad was seen by millions in the U.S.
Asked by NASA astronaut Cady Coleman whether anyone has sent a Snapchat message from space, Spiegel said he didn't think so and then wondered whether she could. Coleman replied that she'd tell Samantha Cristoforett, who's scheduled to leave for the International Space Station next Sunday, to send one.
Another question challenged Snapchat's mission: Couldn't a team of brilliant engineers be tackling more pressing issues, such as the state's water crisis?
That sent Spiegel down memory lane. During his stint at Stanford University, he said, he and a friend who now works at Snapchat designed a shower in which expended water filled up between two panes of glass.
"It would fill up in this kind of glass sandwich around you, and so it really gave you a physical 'wow, I'm using a lot of water here' [feeling]," he said.
Of course, there's plenty of problems Snapchat is equipped to tackle, he replied.
"At present, we're really interested in communication problems," he said. "It's really the beginning of communication happening on the Internet, and we really think we can make an impact there."