What’s New in Instagram Advertising

This March marked a big month in the land of 1:1 snapshots, videos and vintage-style filters. Instagram signed an ad deal with Omnicom Media. Get ready to start seeing more ads in your feed – with a purported $100 million ad spend, Instagram will display photo ads from creative agencies under the Omnicom wing, including BBDO and DDB Worldwide.

Ads will be displayed in both photo and video format. According to AdAge, “an ad in a user’s stream will be controlled so that it stays present for an extended period of time…even if the user logs in or out.” However, the buys will be “manual and selective” (read: not spammy).

Any bets on which brands will start showing up first? Omnicom’s big-player clients – Pepsi, Starbucks, and M&M’s are a few – seem like a shoe-in for the platform. I think the results Instagram revealed a few months ago from campaigns involving Lexus, Levi’s, and Ben & Jerry’s played a big part in their inking the deal.

When I mention Instagram advertising to people, I note some scepticism surrounding the concept — I don’t think anyone wants to see a blaring block-text ad, or an overwhelmingly corporate photo within their feed. That being said, I appreciate the emphasis that Instagram is placing on high-quality content. All three of the case study enterprise campaigns display artfully-composed images; styling that’s been given a bit more consideration than, say, your friend’s grainy stream of cat photos (not that I’d ever be guilty of such a thing).

When scrolling through the comments on these ads, I’ve noticed a general acceptance of them as long as they fall into Instagram’s magnum opus: those expertly-composed, inspirational shots that somehow appear effortless — like the photographer has simply stumbled upon a fleeting ‘perfect moment.’

Take this photo from Ben & Jerry’s. User @bcassidy noted, “If there are going to be ads, keep them looking cool like this one!”


Or this shot from the Levi’s campaign:


The Instagram platform inhabits a fresh space in the marketing world: a demographic of over 150 million users, 90% of them under age 35, who want to be inspired through their smartphone, not a magazine or billboard. I’d argue that the featured jacket in this photo isn’t as important as Levi’s infusing the feeling of freedom and youthfulness into their brand — a connection more likely to remain with their target audience long after the fashion changes.

Moreover, Instagram ads have proven their worth in targeting capabilities and creating brand awareness. Instagram’s case study results show that Levi’s was able to reach 7.4 million people in the USA across a nine-day period, while Ben & Jerry’s reached a milestone 9.8 million USA residents in an eight-day period. User awareness was measured, too, and it was revealed that 17% of users who viewed a single Ben & Jerry’s ad said they became aware of their new ice cream flavour and associated it with the brand.

It’s important to note that all of the selected brands already had an established presence on Instagram. That’s a good prerequisite to have before venturing into advertising on the platform; it ensures the company is able to create the high-quality, engaging content that gains likes and comments organically. Besides, with 65% of the most valuable brands worldwide active on Instagram, the platform is recognized as an arena for corporate storytelling to flourish.

It’ll be interesting to see if Instagram will ever broaden their ad offerings to be accessible to smaller companies. We’ll be following their upcoming ads to see if vibrant, engaging imagery can change ‘corporate’ perception into appreciation of a brand.

Considering the Omnicom deal, which brands do you expect to start showing Instagram ads? Let us know in the comments!

Header image credit: Cara Ferri

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