Instragram has revealed the format for its impending advertising offer, showing off the look and feel that it hopes will attract advertisers to its pages, which will see a regular looking page featuring a photo or video advert accompanied by a label to highlight it as sponsored content, instead of the usual stamp. Some agency insiders offer their reaction to the layout, and added what they felt it would offer potential advertisers.
The ad examples given to us by Instagram look reassuringly similar to the posts you'd normally see on the platform, but with the 'sponsored' banner, obvious enough that you wouldn't mistake them for user generated content.
It's certainly a positive start for Instagram's monetisation drive. But while it has stated that it'll start rolling out ads slowly, with selected brand partners, this is clearly not a strategy for the long term.
While Instagram has revealed it'll be using Facebook likes to target ads, it hasn't been clear on how many ads its users will be exposed to. As is always the case with social networks, as the proliferation of ads increases, it'll need to make sure there's a careful balance between sponsored and organic content, or risk alienating users.
It's also not an advertising platform that brands should jump right into without careful consideration. Instagram's users will not be forgiving of content that isn't 'beautiful', in line with what they're used to seeing, so replicating print ads just isn't going to cut it.
The new Instagram advertising formats should be seen as a natural continuation of Facebook’s approach to advertising to date. Facebook have systematically brought advertising to the core of their user experience demonstrated by their change in focus from ASUs to sponsored stories to newsfeed formats.
The prominence and positioning of these formats will ensure that engagement rates are compelling to advertisers whilst catering to the way consumers already use the platform. The real challenge for Instagram will be in how they dose the number of ads on Instagram. If there are too many, it will isolate their userbase. This consideration will be weighed up against the desire to make immediate financial returns - a behaviour that has become the norm at Facebook since the IPO in May. The decision to test the ads with a handful of brands might be Instagram’s way of testing the waters to identify this balance.
Instagram's announcement today and preview of what we can start to expect in terms of ads in the Instagram feed was a great step. By limiting initial inventory to brands they know to he at the top of the Instagram content game, Instagram is taking a carefully-measured first step. It may be an initial step, but it's an incredibly useful one as many of these brands already have large followings and are setting the content bar for future advertisers.
Instagram are saying "This isn't going to be banner ads on Instagram." It puts an incredibly amount of onus on us as the link between creative digital content and media as the group that gets to have a horse in both the content and placement races.
Instagram users are fiercely protective of their content, friends, and those of whom they are fans. It's going to take a commitment to brand, content, and audience to show success in the Instagram paid placement space. The piece that's going to be most-interesting interesting to many on the media side, is being able to use Facebook targeting to deliver content to Instagram - something that hasn't really been done across networks.
Obviously the introduction of ads is great news for brands, but will it be great news for users?
Many brands have adopted the platform and have been building their community over the last year, and the API can also make owned assets look great overnight. The platform boasts huge numbers of users and high levels of engagement, but there still isn’t clear precisely what the targeting options are.
The intro of ads will boost the acquisition of more fans, but it will be interesting to see if links are enabled in the image descriptions to allow consumers to activate a branded online/mobile experience, or click-to-buy opportunities. Facebook will just need to ensure the ads are native to the user experience or it may ruffle a few community feathers.
Advertising on Instagram was always going to be the next step. Their approach to the launch seems to be sensible. They’ve clearly learnt from the backlash when they subtly changed the terms and conditions on photo ownership. This time they’ve gone about it the right way, with a transparent announcement showing people what it will look like, gauging feedback from users and a controlled roll-out with a few selected partners.
As with anything in social, people don’t mind where content comes from as long as it’s good. Recent statistics show that 40 per cent of the most shared videos on Instagram are from brands, so there’s clearly a place for brands on the platform. The challenge Instagram will have to address is how to maintain a level of quality as and when advertising is rolled out to everyone. People’s feeds are incredibly personal and curated (possibly more so than Facebook), so making sure that ads are relevant and not intrusive could be a tricky act to pull.
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