There are a number of digital channels that marketing teams can use to deliver their messages to customers; and with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, social media has become an increasingly popular choice. But for brands fed up with Facebook or tired of Twitter, an exciting new platform is now available to them – Instagram. As of 23 September, the photo-sharing app will begin displaying branded advertisements on people’s feeds in the UK, an article on Marketing Week reports.

Of course, a lot of brands will already have their own Instagram page, using tags and hashtags to try and increase its reach. But sponsored ads will take this even further – last November, the ad format was trialled in the US and achieved impressive results.

For example, an article on Mashable reports that Levi’s managed to reach 7.4 million targeted customers in just nine days – that’s an audience 47 times larger than the brand’s 155,000 followers. Meanwhile Ben & Jerry’s reached 9.8 million people in eight days; and all ten brands involved in the trial saw a 32% increase in ad recall per campaign.

Following this success, the format is now being launched in the UK, and the first advertisers to get involved are Starbucks, Cadbury, Channel 4, Rimmel, Estee Lauder, Sony Music and Waitrose. Brands will be able to target audiences based on factors such as age, gender and location. There is currently no limit to the amount of ads displayed; however, they are likely to be released gradually and users will see a ‘sponsored’ symbol in the corner of the image informing them that it is an ad.

Also, each ad must keep in line with Instagram styling so that they seem as organic as possible, and they will need to be approved by global head of business and brand development James Quarles, and Instagram founder Kevin Systrom. For example, there should not be too much white space on the image, and text overlay should be avoided. It is hoped that this creative focus will inhibit complaints from Instagram users.

The official Instagram website states: “We’re working to make sure that ads stay true to the spirit of the Instagram community.”

An Instagram ad campaign of four to six posts would cost marketers somewhere between £50,000 and £60,000, a source told Marketing Week.

However, with most companies’ marketing budgets already being stretched, some experts warn that marketers will need to see significant results if they are to be encouraged to move their funds to this channel. According to Stuart McLennan, head of paid social at marketing agency iProspect:

“Instagram has the potential to be more powerful than the bulk of web products out there, but we would want to see more results before we committed to a sizeable partnership. Only certain clients will be willing to commit budget when they are required to change their creative mind-set and dedicate such time and resource, especially without proof [of return] in more case studies.”

Do you think that brands will be hesitant to adopt Instagram into their marketing efforts? And would it be foolish to dismiss the potentially huge outreach of such a campaign?

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