Instagram has been rolling out in-stream ads since late October using select brands with established presence in the Instagram community. An example of these in-stream ads can be seen to the left. As you can see, these ads are designed to fit into the platform, minimizing interruption of the overall Instagram experience. According to AdAge’s report found here there are ten confirmed advertisers on the platform: Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Burberry, General Electric, Levi’s, Lexus, Macy’s, Michael Kors, PayPal and Starwood. Like user-generated posts, the ads can feature a photo or video, only the ads are also accompanied by a “Sponsored” header and an arrow symbol, intended to signify that the post is a sponsored ad. Instagram has also taken an extra step to ensure users are aware of the change using an “educational ad” that explains the meaning behind the arrow symbol, demonstrates how users can hide ads, and provides an option for users to give feedback.
The in-stream ads used by Instagram appear to be more streamlined than ads in other applications. Usually in-stream ads interrupt the user experience for a few seconds and then can be clicked away. On Instagram, these ads will appear in users’ feeds and at first glance look just like another filtered Instagram photo. This is a good and bad thing, however. While it won’t upset the look, flow or feel of the app, this design feature will certainly make it harder for users to recognize these posts as ads. Given the FTC’s and NAD’s focus on Native Advertising, defined by the FTC as “the practice of blending news, entertainment, and other content in digital media,” one wonders whether the “sponsored” header and arrow symbol will be sufficient to put users on notice that the content they are viewing constitutes advertising?
This is exactly the kind of question we expect the FTC to ask at the FTC Native Advertising Workshop on December 4th. Check back here in December for an update on the Workshop!