Instagram ads

In November 2013, Instagram in the US launched Instagram advertising on their platform using aspirational fashion brand Michael Kors and all-time favourite Ben & Jerry’s as two of its guinea pigs. A broader launch to the US market followed in August 2014, and off the back of its success (according to Instagram), Instagram advertising hit Australia in early October 2014, making Australia the second market to launch the ad platform, with other countries to follow suit. So, what has this meant for Instagramers and who will be the winners?

Well, according to Instagram it’s a win-win situation for advertisers and users. For users, they say, it is a subtle and integrated experience and users are able to ‘control’ their advertising experience by being able to collapse the ads and provide feedback to Instagram if they don’t want to see the ads. This feedback, Instagram says, will allow them to deliver more relevant ads to the users ensuring an optimum user experience is maintained. In addition, advertising is inserted into a person’s feed at the fifth or sixth position, this means the ad is not the first piece of content they see. Furthermore, ads are clearly labelled as ‘sponsored’ and comments are collapsed to ensure it looks aesthetically pleasing to the feed owner. Regardless of the fact that there is now a small price to pay for using Instagram (being served ads), Instagram appear to have made all the right noises to show they are staying true to one of their key principles of ‘community first’ (and probably taking on some key learning’s from Facebook).

This is a good sign, no? Well it is for the users, but I am not so sure it is a win for the advertisers yet, especially if you are a small business. The data Instagram is currently using to sell Insta-ads is from the early US case studies, and it looks good – ad recall was better than expected (against their control) and reach amongst the set target audience was high (but as with any advertising this will be budget driven). But what we don’t know is how many consumers collapsed or ‘opted out’ of seeing the ad in their feed, or how the ads are served – as in, what factors influence who sees ads other than their age? This post from 12 months ago may give some insight into this considering the backlash Instagram faced when they updated their privacy policy in the lead up to advertising becoming a reality. These will be the questions advertisers and agencies will want to know, and I am assuming the answers will come with the price of entry, which according to industry analysts in the US is not cheap. This means they are courting the big end of town and small businesses will probably be priced out of using Instagram advertising to run short, targeted campaigns to grow their followers or promote their business, like they can with Facebook. Also, like all images on Instagram there will be no links or direct call to action from the visual, which is kind of frustrating if you are hoping to achieve or measure any objectives other than reach, frequency or brand awareness. You know, like direct action. And, it will also involve a lot of resources to develop content, as from what I could ascertain from the Instagram pitch I attended in August, each target (user) will only see one piece of creative from each advertiser per day, so based on reach and frequency metrics, this will require a lot of creative to sustain a 4 week campaign.

So, who wins? Possibly the user if they can control the experience, possibly the big advertiser if it’s used as a channel within a bigger campaign plan, but until we see the return stats from the first ad campaigns that rolled out in the Australian market it’s hard to say if these two audiences will see great benefit and return. But one thing is for sure, it’s certainly not the small businesses currently plugging away on Instagram trying to grow their reach organically. These guys will need to just keep on doing what they are doing without the benefit of buying some audience love – and that is a shame.

Have you experienced Instagram ads in your feed yet? Have you rolled out a campaign via Instagram ads? If so we’d love to hear your feedback.

Image Credits: The Australian

About Zena Churchill

Zena Churchill is a Director at Max & Buddy Consulting. She has worked in senior level business roles across national and multinational corporations, as well as being a small business owner. Zena is a strategic thinker and brings a practical, straight-forward approach to marketing and social media. She has a passion for training & development running practical business workshops for small business. Zena is a Certified Practising Marketer (AMI), sometimes tutors in Marketing at the University of Wollongong and is a Senior Consultant with Trinity P3.

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