Double-edged Sword: Instagram Introduces Advertising

instagram video

It was just a matter of time for Instagram to roll out advertisements on the popular photo sharing network. We all expected them, but it was unclear “how” the company planned to approach the issue. In a blog post on Thursday, Instagram revealed that soon, users will begin seeing photos and videos from brands they don’t follow, but did not specify how these visuals will be clearly disclosed as ads. Instead, the company stated:

Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow. We’ll focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community.

This small number suggests a careful approach, but care doesn’t solve a bigger issue: disclosure.

All ads should be properly, and clearly disclosed as such. Instead, Instagram has a different vision:

Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands.

There is no such thing as “natural” advertisments. By definition, these are designed to influence, and to drive ROI for a business. The public accepts them, and even acclaims those ads that go the extra mile to deliver entertainment value, but no one would really consider them “natural.” While most users are likely to ignore the ads, the potential for businesses is huge.

Many brands already employ creative Instagram strategies to drive ROI. Ads are a shortcut, the fast way to reach a goal, and more eyeballs within a community of over 150 million people. Sure thing, the more creative an ad, the more viral its reach. But expect innovation in attracting and engaging Instagram users to decline.

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