Instagram takes on TV with new video ads
Instagram has launched a new advertising channel, allowing businesses to place full screen video ads in among the 'Stories' videos of ordinary users' followed contacts.
The move will buttress Facebook - which owns Instagram and WhatsApp - as the world's second-largest advertising network behind Google.
It also pushes the company further to the forefront of TV advertising, with an increasing share of video ads going to small screen platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram and away from traditional large-screen broadcast networks.
Instagram has also launched a new set of analytics tools to give advertisers more information about how their organically-placed Stories are performing.
The 'Stories Insights' tool provides more data on reach, impressions, replies and exits for each individual Story posted by an advertiser. The company says that it now has 150m daily users of its Stories feature, which is up 50pc from October. Instagram is the third-most used social network in Ireland, behind Facebook and Snapchat. According to Ipsos MRBI, a quarter of all adults over 16 have accounts with three in five of them using it every day.
Thousands more get access to Instagram content through web links from other services. Tens of thousands of under-16s are also on the platform. The network is to kick off its Stories ad product with 30 global brands and will extend it to Irish advertisers over the coming weeks.
A spokeswoman for Instagram could not say in what order the new video ads would appear in Instagram Stories.
However, she told the Irish Independent that they are fully controllable by the user in the same way as ordinary Stories posts. That means a user can dismiss or tap forward through an ad if they don't want to see it.
"70pc of Instagrammers follow a business," said the spokeswoman. "One-third of the most-viewed stories come from businesses and one-in-five stories on Instagram gets a direct message from its viewer."
She also said that 70pc of watched Stories have the sound enabled.
One of the biggest Irish Instagram Stories users is Primark, which has 4m followers and uses Instagram Stories to promote fashion offers from Pennys. Its regular Instagram posts routinely attract over 10,000 'likes'.
Smaller Irish businesses such as the Kildare Village outlet company use the platform to highlight sales. Kildare Village currently has 39,000 followers on Instagram.
However, the move comes just as the EU plans a crackdown on the way Facebook and Google make money.
New rules being proposed by the European Commission would see web giants required to obtain explicit consent before being able to scan or track communications for advertising purposes. If adopted by EU member states, the proposals could hit the revenue streams of 'free' web-based services, particularly Facebook and Google.
However, the proposals are a watered-down version of even tougher rules, that would have forced web browsers to set the default settings as not allowing 'cookies' and requiring user 'opt-in' preferences.
"It's up to our people to say yes or no," said Andrus Ansip, Commission vice-president for the digital single market.
Regardless of whether the EU proposals make it into law, Instagram's move is a further step in the direction of arch-rival Snapchat, with Instagram choosing the word "ephemeral" to describe its focus on the Stories feature.
Disappearing messages and videos are the hallmark of Snapchat, which has amassed a formidable audience among people under 30.
In recent months, Facebook and Instagram have been introducing features that resemble those introduced by Snapchat, including disappearing messages, time-limited videos, new filters and stickers for photos and videos.
Ireland was the first European country used to test a new Snapchat-style camera feature that lets people use stickers and filters.
The first 30 companies to gain Instagram Stories ad involvement include Nike, Netflix, general Motors and Capital One.