Instagram confirmed this week on its blog that it will start adding image and video ads in the US within the next couple of months. It was not declared when this will happen in other countries. The commercials will be from brands that users do not follow, but which are already members of the Instagram community. Only a handful of companies, including Levi’s, Burberry and GE, which have been using the publishing platform on a regular basis, will get to show ads at first.
Instagram justifies the change as followed: “We have big ideas for the future, and part of making them happen is building Instagram into a sustainable business”. They continue to say that the videos will be made to feel as “natural” as the photos and videos many of the users already enjoy and that they will start “slow.” Users can hide the ads that they do not like and give feedback about why they did it, which is similar to Facebook and Pinterest. However, users will not be able to turn the advertisement off.
Facebook, which acquired Instagram for $736 million in 2012, also plans to insert auto-play video ads in the News Feed, according to information from advertising executives. Although those commercials might seem like a good idea for advertisers, their audience will not have a choice in watching them. This is not the only disadvantage, however. Ads will make pages slower to load, harder to scroll around (especially on mobile devices and older computers) and hence, will make it a lot less fun to use certain social media platforms.
Due to the focus on single-served images on Instagram, the changes will most likely be disturbing and disruptive. Some media experts and users are convinced that these types of commercials are “intrusive and bothersome”. However, advertisers concur that if users are unhappy with the ads, it does not deliver a positive message for their product or brand image.
Similarly, MySpace focused too much on financial aspects and less with their user’s experience. It became so overloaded with advertisement that many users stopped using the social media platform all together and switched to Facebook. According to Social Media Explorer, teenagers have already stopped using their Facebook profiles due to the increase of commercials. If a person uses Facebook for 6.5 hours a month, (s)he could be swamped with as many as 400 commercials during that time. A pre-launch study revealed that video ads could increase Facebook’s daily revenue by $1.5 million.
Users were also angered about the introduction of Tumblr ads. Pinterest launched a similar ad feature last month. Despite that, Twitter revealed this week that it doesn’t “currently place, or currently plan to place ads on Vine,” according to AdAge Digital. One of the positive things for users might be that the videos are short and with no sound. If a user enjoys the commercial, the sound can be switched on. Furthermore, photo and video ownership remains with the 150 million users of Instagram, says TechCrunch.