Don’t be surprised if you haven’t noticed the new ads on Instagram. The company is being very cautious about how they introduce them to the public.
Instagram first announced the upcoming ads on its official blog at the beginning of the month, but they first appeared on users’ feeds a week ago.
The ads almost look like any other posts that would appear on your feed. They stick to the square format, and they are artistic and attractive. The main difference is a “sponsored” label and a blue-arrow icon replacing the timestamp that normally appears in the top-right corner of an image.
The company is taking it slow initiating its new revenue stream and is only allowing a few trusted brands to post ads at this time, including Levi’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Adidas and Burberry, brands that already have Instagram accounts. It’s no wonder why the photo-sharing app would want to incorporate ads.
The free application is used by 18 percent of cellphone owners, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. And nearly half of cellphone owners ages 18 to 29 use Instagram. That means if you walk around campus and ask 10 of your peers, five of them are likely to use the app.
However, only 18 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds and 6 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds are Instagram users. So if advertisers want to target millennials, Instagram is the platform for them. However, if millennials aren’t its demographic, the ad team should probably think outside the square.
Bruce Floyd, UF’s social media specialist, said he thinks Instagram has begun to include ads because it is owned by Facebook, and Facebook is beholden to its shareholders.
“That’s their duty and responsibility to earn revenue, so practically speaking, they had to do something at some point to drive some revenue,” Floyd said.
Like its parent company, Instagram allows users to hide individual ads and give feedback about why they don’t like them. Instagram’s approach to advertising has been very different from Facebook’s, which primarily uses stock-photo promotions.
However, 19-year-old UF telecommunication sophomore Tanisha Bennet said the ads’ similarity to other Instagram content is confusing because she doesn’t follow those accounts on her feed.
Though Bennet thinks the ads are cute, she said she liked that Instagram used to be a break from advertising.
Though the ad launch is limited to the U.S. now, eventually, all users will see ads through filtered frames. There’s no escaping it.
A version of this story ran on page 9 on 10/31/2013 under the headline "App does #instagood job fitting ads into personal feeds"