Ben & Jerry’s, McDonald’s and Vegemite are the first Australian advertisers to launch paid ads on Instagram. The new ad units go live today (8 October) giving advertisers another channel to reach consumers, but risks a backlash from users unhappy with the invasion of ads on the previously ad-free photo sharing app.
Paid ads look almost identical to organic posts, with the addition of the “sponsored” tag on the top right corner. Advertisers will now be able to target users based on age and gender with paid ad content appearing to users who do not follow them.
Speaking to AdNews ahead of the launch, Amy Cole, Instagram’s head of business operations and the seventh member of the Instagram team when she joined two years ago, reiterated that ad products have been developed to be as “seamless,” “natural” and unobtrusive as possible.
The paid post has been designed to echo what brands and users already do organically on Instagram, said Cole, and ads are rolling out slowly with a limited number of advertisers so that feeds won’t be overrun with ads. But, she wouldn’t be drawn on any reach and frequency caps or how many ads users could expect to see.
Social networks are increasingly being criticised for ebing advertising led at the cost of user experience, and anti-advertising social network Ello has attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks signallying consumers are ready to jump ship if ads on established platforms are intrusive.
Instagram, which turned four yesterday, batted away any fears of potential negative backlash, saying that total engagement on paid posts in the US has been “overwhelmingly positive” and that paid ads on Instagram can move the dial on brand metrics.
“Engagement can be a useful, but the real value is the ads’ ability to impact brand metrics. For every brand campaign we’re running, we’re polling and measuring whether we’re impacting the brand metrics the advertiser cares about - things like ad recall, campaign awareness, intent and consideration.”
Put a figure on it
Paid ads on Instagram will be bought on a CPM basis but Facebook, which owns Instagram, was loath to give away any details on pricing. Instagram’s Cole also declined to comment on how Instagram ads prices would compare with Facebook ads, but agency sources have suggested it’s likely to be higher.
Facebook’s aim is to eventually package up campaigns across both platforms. The first campaign to do so in the US was for Mercedes, with early indicators that there was uplift from running complementary creative across both.
The auto brand recorded a 54% increase in website visits from Instagram and Facebook branding ads and a 580% increase in website visits when Facebook and Instagram ads were combined with Facebook direct response ads.
In the US, McDonald’s faced a backlash from its Instagram debut, but Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t seem put off.
Speaking to AdNews ahead of the launch, Ben & Jerry’s brand manager Kalli Swaik said while it already had a strong organic following on Instagram, it wanted to adopt the paid posts to increase awareness of the brand. Globally and in the adverting and marketing world it is well known, because it only launched in Australia five years ago, it has a surprisingly low awareness in the market, according to Swaik so it wants to broaden its posts beyond its 4,000 followers.
“People love ice cream, people love food porn, and people tag us all the time but there’s a lot more people who don’t know [Ben & Jerry’s Australia] is on Instagram, or are tagging our US account. We want to engage them with our tone, our puns and our amazing flavours,” she said.
The brand will run several series of four ads targeting urban professionals in the 18 to 35 bracket, but Swaik admitted the brand isn’t sure quite how paid and organic content will work together.
It will likely pull back from its organic posts for a while to give the paid ads space, she said.
Results and lessons from the US
Instagram rolled out paid ads in the US in November last year and brands are starting to see some results. Instagram thinks advertisers here will see the same kind of uplift. Across paid ads in the US, Cole claims advertisers have recorded a 20 point lift – or more - in ad recall and a 10 point lift in campaign message awareness.
She said it is learning what works from how brands in the US used the platform to help Australian advertisers plan their activities, including keeping posts simple, of the moment and not over produced.
Instagram has launched ads in other regions in partnership with Omnicom, following the global deal signed in March but in Australia it is working with a number of agencies and brand partners. The full list of brands due to roll out Instagram ads in the coming weeksis: Flight Centre, Ben & Jerry's, Tourism Queensland, Vegemite, Lenovo, Toyota, Audi, McDonald’s, Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
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