After all of the delays and rumors of an impending arrival, it appears the younger and smaller Instagram will be selling video ads well before its parent company Facebook gets around to it.
Over the coming months, the photo and video-sharing site says it will begin displaying ads in the Instagram feeds of users in the US.
"Seeing photos and videos from brands you don't follow will be new, so we'll start slow," the company notes in a blog post. Initially, the ads will be limited to a small number from a handful of brands that are already active on Instagram. Users will also be able to hide and provide feedback on ads they don't like.
The simple visual nature of Instagram has attracted many luxury and apparel brands, which now enjoy among the highest number of followers among brands on the platform. As such, most of the early ads will probably come in the form of a new product being showcased in an aesthetically pleasing format, an art form dominated by these same brands in print, TV and online.
"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," the company adds. "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."
Eric Mugnier, SVP of M&C Saatchi Mobile, says Instagram will have a natural role in mobile advertising because visuals are an increasingly decisive element of efficient campaigns.
"We have been exploring advertising on Instagram for some time, as we think that the size of the audience and the creative nature of their interface can provide a very powerful tool for advertisers. If the Facebook targeting capability and transparency are available, it could even become an inevitable platform to reach the young audience, potentially even more powerful than Facebook itself," he tells ClickZ.
The most important features, from his perspective, are the 15-second timeframe for videos and the large space that will potentially be available for ads within the Instagram feed.
"There is no doubt that the Instagram ad units will be inspired by the success of the Facebook app install product and provide a ‘native ad' like experience, maximizing ROI (return on investment) for advertisers," he says, adding, "... a 15-second video is what we believe represents the longest acceptable format for mobile users. Seven-second spots can be as impactful and far less disturbing for the youngest and more impatient generation."
Jason Hirschhorn, a former executive at MTV Networks, MySpace, Sling Media and others, summarized in a tweet why many media influencers think consumer concerns about ads on Instagram are overblown:
What's the big deal with ads in Instagram? Every picture you see is a carefully selected one for a life others want to live anyway. An ad.— Jason Hirschhorn (@JasonHirschhorn) October 7, 2013
"Mobile video advertising in general is taking more and more market share in the mobile ad space as a result of greater performance," adds Mugnier.
If the user flow provides a seamless experience with an actionable companion banner, he says, it could become the standard of mobile ads, ahead of interactive rich media or standard mobile banners.
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at email@example.com.
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