Chatter: How Instagram’s new feature can help advertisers

Can the social media giant's "carousel ads" unit replace multi-page print ads?

Dan Taccone March 19, 2015

Instagram is slowly building up its attractiveness to advertisers—and now it’s releasing a new service to house magazine-style multi-page galleries.

Last week, Instagram announced the arrival of its “carousel ads”– a slideshow advertisement format being sold on a CPM basis that allows brands to showcase a gallery of photos to consumers, without crowding their photo feed. Users simply swipe left if they want to continue exploring the brand’s photos, eventually arriving at another new feature: a clickable “Learn More” tab.

Instagram released most of the information via blog post on its website, explaining:

“One way to look at it is carousel ads bring the potential of multi-page print campaigns to mobile phones – with the added benefit of taking people to a website to learn more. For instance, a fashion company could use the carousel to deconstruct the individual products in a ‘look.’ A car company might share an array of different features of a vehicle and provide a link to learn more about the new model. Or, an advertiser could showcase how multiple ingredients come together to make a delicious meal.”

This is significantly different than Instagram’s current advertising system that began in 2013, which is limited to a single sponsored photo or video that has to be personally approved by Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. Approval is still required for the carousel ads, but allows brands the opportunity to offer a more in-depth experience to the user.

Garret Sloane from Adweek writes about the change in approach the new service can facilitate:

“Until now, brands have mostly used the app as billboard space to flash ads as users scroll by. The carousel allows for sequential storytelling, developing a narrative over the course of multiple images. The carousel will only be offered on sponsored posts, not to everyday users or non-paying brands.”

At Marketing Land, Martin Beck explores the weak spot in the apps advertising strategy that came with not having clickable ads with its sponsored posts.

“The ability to link to other sites will certainly be a welcome change for marketers, at least those given access to the ad format. One of Instagram’s shortcomings as a promotional tool is that there’s no way to include clickable links within posts. Because of that limitation, Instagram has long been considered a place for businesses to build their brand and plant their flag rather than drive traffic back to their websites.”

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine explains the recent move by Instagram makes it a more versatile tool, and a much better fit for more companies.

“However, until now, Instagram’s ads have been primarily for institutional advertisers looking for influence, but not necessarily immediate sales. Think Coca-Cola or fashion brands like Michael Kors. Clickable carousels will make Instagram’s ads work for a much wider range of companies, which could quickly ramp up its revenue.”

At AdAge, Tim Peterson realizes the potential value of the carousel as an alternative to costly multi-page print ads, especially as advertisers look for more in-depth ways to connect to consumers.

“…Instagram has given advertisers an alternative for the next time a company like Apple mulls a 12-page print spread in Vogue to promote the Apple Watch. And it’s improved upon the analog format by appending a link people can click on to find out more about what’s being advertised.”

While Instagram is increasing it’s appeal to advertisers, it’s still developing its targeting data in efforts to be on par with Facebook’s Atlas, and has issues tracking the right data to give advertisers a measurable ROI. However, with the new options for consumers to click through to the brand’s site, there is the opportunity for Instagram to offer a more tantalizing package to advertisers.

TechCrunch’s Constine writes:

“Now Instagram’s advertisers will know not only if someone saw, liked, or commented on their ad, but also if people swiped through multiple photos and clicked through to their site. With this kind of measurement comes confidence, and with confidence comes ad spend. Instagram stands to get a lot richer.”

If the new carousel ads work as planned, it’s likely that Instragram won’t be the only one getting richer.