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Ads are coming to Instagram's 'Explore' tab

Until now, the Explore tab has been reserved for native user and branded content

Instagram is bringing ads to its 'Explore' tab, giving brands the chance to buy sponsored posts in the content discovery portal as it inches further towards a pay-to-play model.

Until now, the Explore section – which uses complex algorithms to serve up personalised content recommendations to users from ordinary posts, Instagram Stories and IGTV – has been reserved for native user and branded content.

However, in the next few months, Instagram will weave sponsored posts into the Explore feed, showing users paid-for photos and videos as they browse.

In a blog post, the Facebook-owned platform pitched the new format as one that would give advertisers the chance to be part of "what’s culturally relevant and trending while reaching new audiences who are looking to discover something new."

It also said brands will be able to extend their campaigns using automatic placements with a simple opt-in to reach audiences in Explore, removing the need for complex media buying or planning processes.

Aware that users will take some getting used to the move, Instagram noted how it will introducing ads on to the Explore section "slowly and thoughtfully" in the coming months.

"After tapping on a photo or video in Explore, people may begin to see ads as part of their browsing experience just like in the main feed. As always, people have control over the ads they see," it added.

Instagram claims that 80% of people follow a business on Instagram. It hasn't revealed which big brands will be first out of the gate with the feature.

Given the popularity of Instagram Stories among brands like Asos, Marks & Spencer, Adidas and more it makes sense that Instagram is eyeing up more places to deliver ad experiences to users.

However, the latest update from the platform follows on from ad agencies voicing concerns that the image-sharing app was strangling organic reach in favour of pushing ads.

Though speculation around an algorithm change has been dispelled by the business, question marks remain over what is causing performance to drop for some.

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