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Instagram quickens search for real business value from ads as it evaluates first UK campaigns


By Seb Joseph, News editor

March 31, 2015 | 3 min read

Instagram is turning to London’s creative community to kickstart efforts to convince brands the images it hosts can drive business metrics as it evaluates the first UK campaigns that have tried.

The social network is planning workshops and events to recruit creatives across the city to try and sustain the high-quality photos its monetisation model is pinned on.

The aim is to try and sell its advertising on the value of impressions and subsequent sales lift, similarly to sister site Facebook, in the hope of leveraging its own experience as the key engagement driver. This play began in earnest when its ads first reached Instagrammers in 2013 before coming to the UK last September though it is only seeing limited traction now following feedback from its first campaigns.

Cadbury, John Lewis and Channel 4 all bought into Instagram’s pitch to monetise “visual inspiration” and consequently turned the dial when it came to performance. Advertisers gain nearly 50 times more engagement on Instagram than Twitter, according to Socialbakers but the former has repeatedly touted itself as a brand building platform rather than focused solely on conversions.

Alastair Cotterill, creative lead for Instagram EMEA, told The Drum it is still “early days” in regards to advertisers shifting their strategies from being reliant on the organic reach of their posts to seeing the worth of targeting photos, videos and its carousel adverts to specific audiences. However, demand for its ads in the UK over the last seven months had been “strong”, he added.

Cadbury shot a paper-folding artists creating “moments of joy” from the wrappers of its chocolates, which consequently lifted ad recall 20 points, while campaign message association to the “Free the Joy” strapline rose eight points among 25 to 34 year-olds.

Meanwhile, Channel 4 mined the Instagram trend whereby users post photos of things organised neatly using props that represented the stars from its Googlebox show and asked people to guess who they were. Ad recall rose 19 points, while channel association and consideration to watch increased seven and three points respectively.

Cadbury, John Lewis and Channel 4 all showed signs of enthusiasm following their efforts although neither of the latter two mentioned further paid ad trials despite talking up the channel. It is indicative of the experimental lens with which many advertisers still view Instagram, with many still content to reach out to their audience through organic visual content.

Cotterill repeated the earlier notion that it was still “too early” when answering whether advertisers were starting to shift their strategies on the platform. On Instagram “it’s about trying to encourage people to be “visually inspired” and brands are being encouraged to explore all facets before jumping straight in.

One such feature is the growing potency of Instagram stars, who similarly to those on YouTube are fast emerging as a great entry point for brands. Adidas has just a launched a campaign with Instagrammer turned professional photographer E Cole in an attempt to push its brand out to more people.

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