Ads on Instagram: The Weigh-In

It’s finally happened. Instagram has ads. As one would expect, the decision sparked eye-rolls and angry tweets from users who instantly recoil at anything “advertised” or “sponsored”. But lets not scream “sellout” just yet.

While the decision reflects the company’s need to create alternate revenue streams to satisfy their shareholders, the manner in which they’re instituting the change illustrates Instagram’s commitment to maintaining the user experience. They aren’t throwing the gates open to all kinds of advertised content. It isn’t going to be free-for-all ad anarchy running your newsfeed.

Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Burberry, General Electric, Lexus, Levi’s®, Macy’s, Michael Kors, PayPal and Starwood are Instagram’s chosen ones. These 10 handpicked brands will partake in phase one of the sponsored post integration strategy. They have a track record of posting popular, aesthetically pleasing, brand self-conscious posts.

This means that the ads aren’t going to look like “ads” but like posts from any other user, which, will fit seamlessly into your mid-morning scroll through. Or at least that’s the goal. The posts are a far cry from the “Look at me! Buy this!” in your face marketing approach. Instead, they seem to be a push toward aesthetically on-point, high quality branded entertainment.

While Instagram is choosing to forsake revenue from individual users who want to promote their content for now, this probably won’t be the case forever. The pull of the “ka-ching” will eventually lead to a far more democratic advertising policy. This means that while the situation doesn’t seem grim right now, it very well could be in the future. Still, one hopes that by starting off with a set of brands that are well versed in facilitating meaningful consumer interactions in the social media space, Instagram has set the tone for the future of advertising on their site.

While the jury’s still out on how positive a change this is for the user, the move seems to be a huge win for brands. The company is already the fastest growing social network for marketers due in part to its image of “authenticity” and the influencer model at its core. Simply Measured reported that a 70% increase in the amount brands post has led to a 350% increase in brand engagement. More specifically, Instagram CEO Kevin Strom claimed that over 5% of the impressions (of the ads they’ve run) have already led to likes.

Video sponsored posts are definitely going to burst onto the scene in the near future; watch this space for more.

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