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Instagram Gives Users Sneak Preview of Ads

Instagram Gives Users Sneak Preview of Ads

Instagram is gently preparing its users for the presence of advertising on the site, promising the sponsored photos and videos will be attractive and interesting. "The challenge is way beyond format," said Ignite Social Media's Jim Tobin. "It's also what marketers do with the ads once they're given the opportunity to control the content and the targeting."

By Rachelle Dragani E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
10/26/13 5:00 AM PT

Instagram on Thursday unveiled new information about its upcoming ads, giving users a taste of what the sponsored photos and videos will look like.

When it announced last month that it would be introducing ads, Instagram assured users that the posts would feel natural and not compromise the network's aesthetics.

Based on an example it displayed, the photos and videos will appear in the same format as an ordinary Instagram post, with a few modifications. The name of the brand will appear in the top left corner of the photo or video, where Instagram posts normally display the user's name. In the top right corner, there will be a "Sponsored" label instead of a timestamp.

What You Like

Users will be able to Like or comment on the photos. If they want to hide a particular ad or provide feedback on what they don't like about it, they can click on the "..." symbol that will appear on the bottom right. That feedback will then be used to provide better targeting, according to Instagram.

Instagram will glean information from users' Facebook and Instagram activity -- such as which brands they follow or their interests -- to determine which ads they might find interesting.

Instragram ads initially will appear only from a handful of recognizable brands including Ben & Jerry's, General Electric, Macy's and PayPal.

Getting Its Money's Worth

The time was running out for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, to start bringing in some revenue, said Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media.

"Facebook clearly has to monetize Instagram, both to justify their (US)$1 billion purchase price and to continue to meet stock market expectations," Tobin told the E-Commerce Times.

How successful that monetization process will be depends on how well Instagram can draw advertisers to its platform. Since several established brands already use the platform and have amassed thousands of followers, Instagram is going to have to convince advertisers that the site can be an effective way to draw new users rather than simply continue to use the site -- for free -- to display new products, connect with users and offer discounts, as they've already been doing.

"For users who love a brand and follow that brand on Instagram or any other social network, ads aren't much benefit," said Tobin. "For expanding a brand's reach beyond their following, I can see ads in Instagram providing some value."

Keeping a Clean Feed

Keeping the filtered, noninvasive feel of Instagram intact will be crucial to the ads' success going forward, said Tobin.

"Instagram is doing the right thing by easing the ad format onto its users over time and looking for reaction," he added, "but the challenge is way beyond format. It's also what marketers do with the ads once they're given the opportunity to control the content and the targeting."

Since Instgram is getting into the digital ad game later than some of its competitors, the company and its advertisers have a chance to create ads that will appeal to users more than they do on Facebook, Google or Twitter -- now it's just up to Instagram to take advantage of that opportunity, said Tobin.

"I think a lot of the frustration we see from ads on Facebook is how bad a lot of them are -- cheesy images selling cheesy products that users have no interest in," he pointed out. "If that's what happens to Instagram ads, people will get mad."


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