Instagram Is the Latest Social Platform to Dive Into Native Video

Hot on the heels of Tumblr’s move to native video, Instagram has rolled out its own auto-play video ads.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, has introduced 15-second auto-play videos from Disney, Activision, Lancôme, Banana Republic, and the CW, which will appear over the course of the coming weeks.

The platform is primarily known as a social sharing destination for photos, but Paul Bremer, general manager at blinkx Mobile, says that video could be effective if Instagram focuses on user engagement rather than product display.

“It’s interesting that they would take a two-dimensional platform and introduce sight, sound, and motion,” says Bremer. “The advertisers listed in the coverage of this new effort are all forward-thinking and if these ads are targeted to consumers, beyond just general demos, they might have some impact. It will be interesting to see if 15-second ads are the right duration or whether something shorter might ultimately be the right fit in this environment.”

Video could feel organic to the platform if marketers offer content that fits into the natural landscape of the site rather than attempt to force-fit videos that don’t make sense, says Gregg Stewart, founder of 3rdAct Marketing.

“In advertising a picture can be worth a thousand words, but video raises the game,” Stewart says. “In effect, a single video can be worth a thousand pictures. Of course the challenge will be in targeting and offering content that Instagram users will find relevant and valued to their site and app usage habits.”

Banana Republic is one brand trying to tailor its message to Instagram’s photo stream style. The video the company launched today moves through sketches of the brand’s holiday collection at high speed, giving the impression of flipping through a series of photographs.

Banana Republic’s spots are geared toward Instagram’s female audience. Right now, targeting capabilities are limited, and marketers are only able to target users by age, gender, and county.

Instagram is the latest in a string of social media platforms moving to native video. Earlier this week, microblogging site Tumblr launched similar video ads, and mobile messaging app Snapchat recently partnered with Universal to launch a short trailer for the horror film Ouija. Facebook has been using auto-play video ads for mobile and desktop since December.

While most social sites seem ready to jump on the native video bandwagon, Stewart warns that video overload could eventually drive users away.

“Advertising interruptions offset the cost for audiences to use a specific platform, site, or app,” Stewart says. “[But] there is a fine line when balancing user experience, site usability, and revenue monetization. If the balance swings too far in the eyes of the fickle, youthful audience that these sites cater to, users have shown the propensity to move onto new media venues that are not so ‘mainstream’ in their view.”

However, if marketers create video content that is engaging and tailored to the social platform, Stewart says that native video “is a proven performing ad unit for national and global advertisers seeking to get exposure on high-use Web properties.”

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