Instagram expands ads: clickable, targeted, trackable

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 3 June 2015

A year after launching ads Instagram has opened up its ad network to any advertiser, adding click to buy functionality, improving targeting and making it measurable and trackable.

The additional features shift Instagram from being a purely branding tool, to a more functional and results driven marketing platform. Instagram will now allow ads to offer other actionable functions, such as signing up for websites and downloading apps direct from the post.

Advertising was first launched in Australia in March last year following the US launch. The move is the photo sharing app’s first widespread foray into advertising, as its initial trials have been with limited and selected brands such as McDonald’s L’Oréal and Qantas. While it does open up ads to smaller brands, it is thought that there is still a $30,000 minimum spend for potential advertisers.

The clickable function will be particularly welcomed by brand advertisers. Brands, particularly retailers, have been using hacks of the platform using third party tools such as David Jones using ShopInsta, and Myer using Like2Buy to connect with e-commerce platforms and there was a rising frustration that it wasn’t part of the platform.

Speaking to AdNews in March, Matt Jacobson, Instagram's global head of growth, said that e-commerce was one of the most interesting trends he saw coming down the track for Instagram, and hinted that the functionality was in the pipeline – but didn’t reveal when. At the time he said: “E-commerce in Australia is really interesting ... There’s learnings that have come out [from the US and UK] about how to leverage platforms like Instagram to drive awareness, and then tools like Facebook to convert that intent is really interesting and powerful to me.

“[E-commerce] obviously is something worth thinking about, and looking at and understanding, as well as the mechanics of how you introduce that, because it changes the user experience – does it add value or not?”

The new ad network will offer better targeting that Instagram has offered advertisers. It has adopted Facebook’s targeting mechanics allowing advertisers to target beyond age and gender demographics and incorporate their likes and interests as well as layer on a brand’s own first party data.

While Facebook isn’t commenting on how many ads users will now be seeing, it’s likely to be increased. Initially, Instagram had a cap in place for how many ads users would see – it’s not known if there is still a cap with an increased volume.

There is a risk that opening up the ad platform to any advertiser could erode the quality of the ads. Instagram has, until now, also been highly guarded about the kind of creative that it would allow in Instagram ads with every single paid-for branded ad signed off by Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. Because the volume will increase, that becomes impractical.

Whether or not the quality of the ads running on Instagram will go down, remains to be seen but the way Instagram charges advertisers is designed to incentivise good creative much like Facebook ads.

Ads with good creative that fit with Instagram’s quality profile tend to organically get more likes and shares and that influences how much the advertiser pays for it. Ads that have bad creative and get fewer likes and comments and interaction from the community will be more expensive.

SMBs can now buy Instagram ads using Facebook’s Ad manager and Power Editor tools – previously every Instagram sponsored post was manually posted.

The changes roll out from today with the first launch in the US. It will follow in Australia in the coming months but no specific date has been given.

Globally since launching ads it has run 475 brand campaigns, and claims that ad recall is 2.9 times higher for Instagram ads that the norm, according to Nielsen Brand Effect measurements.

Earlier his week Instagram added carousel ads, to mirror Facebook. 

Read the full profile interview with Jacobson here: Instagram adding up

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