Earlier this month Instagram told users that it was going to introduce advertising on the app in the coming weeks. That time has come and the Facebook unit just revealed some additional details about its strategy and the ad units we’ll be seeing.
Starting with a very small, select group of advertisers Instagram will begin introducing high quality brand-oriented ads into the news feed, these will include still imagery and video.
The list of Instagram advertisers at launch include the following:
These advertisers were chosen in part because of their elegant or innovative use of the app to promote their products and services. Instagram hopes to set a high standard for quality with its ads.
Indeed, the company has some lofty aspirations for advertising and doesn’t see the app as just another place to put more Facebook display ad units:
Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands. After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.
There’s a real opportunity to set a higher standard for ad creative. Digital creative is often (usually) the weak link in online and mobile ad campaigns. We’ll see if Instagram’s vision can be maintained over time.
Another reason to take this approach is self interested. It’s not just about aesthetics and beautiful ads. Instagram users would rebel against crappy and too many ad units. However the executives at Instagram are very mindful of all this.
I was told that ad targeting would not be as elaborate as on Facebook, though there would be some of the same audience targeting capabilities. However, as indicated, ads will be more brand-centric than direct-response based (e.g., “buy this now”) with billing accordingly.
New advertisers will be gradually allowed into the program as Instagram evaluates user reactions and feedback.
Instagram has a great opportunity to make good on the cliche that argues online ads can be content. It can also, if successful, have a very positive impact on agencies, online publishers and the broader industry by raising the bar for ads and ad creative.
Postscript: One thing that I neglected to mention earlier today: the initial “ads” that users will see will actually not be ads. They will be spots educating people about the fact that ads are coming, demonstrate how they will be presented, as well as the idea that users can hide them if they so choose. This is another interesting and perhaps unique approach being taking by Instagram to prepare its audience for advertising on the app.