If I’m Going to See Ads, I Want to See Them on Instagram

I think we can all come to a general consensus and say that everyone hates ads. They are annoying, distracting, and flat out boring. Never have I ever been enticed to click on a pop-up ad. I’m sure a lot of people could tell you a similar story.

But why exactly are these ads so annoying? Are they ugly? Is it because I’m not interested in the product? I spent a lot of time thinking about why certain ads work and others fail miserably. After much deliberation, I think I’ve found the answer.

The ads that I liked, didn’t FEEL like ads. It didn’t feel like the company was shoving a product or service down my throat. A company had finally created an ad concept that I actually wanted to engage with. It was a miracle.

I thought to myself: “Why can’t all ads be like this? I would gladly engage with their content if it was this well executed, engaging, and thoughtful.” I then realized that there is a place where ads consistently met all of this criteria. That place is Instagram.

The world of selfies, cats, and…ads?

I have concluded that Instagram is the absolute best place to sell a product. When I’m scrolling through my feed quickly, I will automatically engage with content that I like. Without looking at who posted it, or the caption. Many times, I have no idea that I’m looking at an ad. If you create content that entices the user to buy your product, without them even knowing you are trying to sell something to them, you’ve already won.

I first realized how effective advertising on Instagram was when I got hooked into an advertising loop when I engaged with some MVMT Watches content on my feed one day.

I saw a beautifully captured picture of a watch sitting on a table and thought: “Wow, that’s a really nice watch!”. At first sight, I thought one of my friends might have gotten a new watch and was showing it off. Then I realized that what I was so engaged with, was actually an ad. I swiped right to see a few more pictures and was hooked. I didn’t even read the caption. Just went straight to their website for more information.

Because I did this, I was immediately targeted on all other social media sites for MVMT Watches advertising (Google analytics at its finest). My Facebook feed was littered with them, Twitter timeline ads interspersed between tweets. But these ads were different. They were boring.

In my opinion, even though Facebook seems to have extremely high click through rates for ads (compared to other options), I think it makes ads look ugly. The pictures are off to the side, small, often uninteresting, and it LOOKS like an ad. No one wants to click on ads unless something really grabs their attention.

Here is an example of Facebook ads in the right sidebar. (Can you say boring?)

In my strategic advertising class, we often talk about the difference between hard-sell ads, and soft-sell ads. All of these examples in the figure above are considered hard-sell ads. They display the product, some sort of price or bad headline, and little to no concept. In our class, we avoid these kinds of ads at all costs. They have been proven to be annoying, and generally ineffective.

Soft-sell ads have more of a concept than the price. These are the ads that I typically see more often on Instagram. They are showing their product in an interesting way, that doesn’t scream BUY ME.

Even when a company pays big money for ads that show up in the middle of your Facebook news feed, and potentially has the opportunity to include more of a concept, I am still hesitant to engage with them. Simply because they look like boring hard-sell ads.

I understand that Facebook must be fairly transparent in letting their users know that they are in fact viewing an ad. However, there must be a better way to format the post than what is currently being presented.

In short, there is no platform that captures my attention towards advertising better than Instagram. I’m glad that they have found a model that makes them money, but doesn’t hinder the user experience. Something that I find a lot of digital product companies struggle with. Imagine Facebook without ads? Awesome stuff.

Also, I know Instagram recently had a fairly large update that alters the order of posts in your feed. This was done to push content that Instagram believes will engage you more. If Instagram can show you content that you are more interested in, you might stay on the app longer, which allows them to serve you more ads. I think this is something that very few people are in favour of, but is ultimately a topic for another post.

As a final message to all startups and companies trying to make a go of it, please invest your money into advertising on Instagram if possible. I’ll gladly take a look at your product if you have something interesting to show me.


Until next time,