Will Opening the Instagram Ad Platform Hurt User Experience?

September 24, 2015 – By Aaron Hockel

Two weeks ago, Instagram announced that its advertising platform would be open to all businesses on September 30, 2015. This is a major win for advertisers as the platform boasts 300,000,000 users who spend an average of 21 minutes per day on the app. More importantly, 41% of 16-24 year old’s and 35% of 24-35 year old’s in the U.S. are users. Instagram will offer advertisers a powerful portal to reach these highly coveted market segments.

Ads will be available in image and video formats and offer a range of call to action buttons such as “shop now”, “learn more” and “install now”. Initial data shows that targeted Instagram ad campaigns have a significant impact on ad recall, product awareness, and app installs. (checkout these case studies on campaigns run by Levi’s and Ben & Jerry’s).

Instagram ads will offer calls to action such as "SHOP NOW" and "INSTALL NOW" Instagram ads will offer calls to action such as “SHOP NOW” and “INSTALL NOW”.[

While the opening of the Instagram ad platform is definitely a win for advertisers (and likely to be a major revenue bump for Facebook) it should raise concerns about an increase in targeted ads negatively impacting overall user experience. Users are going to begin seeing more ads in their Instagram feeds and history tells us they will not be happy about it. Early Instagram ad campaigns from Michael Kors and Lexus were both met with harsh criticism from users.

As Facebook opens the Instagram ad platform to the masses it raises a number of questions: Will the coveted 16-35 year old demographic be turned off by seeing significantly more ads? Will results from Instagram ad campaigns continue to average 2.8 times Nielsen’s standards for ad recall? Will an increase in ads cause users to stray from Instagram? Does the 21 minutes of daily average use plummet?

Facebook is no stranger to criticism and backlash over ads and has always managed to weather the storm. I believe this situation will be no different. Facebook will receive an initial outburst of criticism that will end quickly. Instagram users will remain highly engaged with the app as a younger audience is more accepting of social media ads. Lastly, the overall effectiveness of Instagram ads will decline in comparison to early case studies as result of users being exposed to more ads.

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