SAN FRANCISCO: The news that Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing social network, is to start carrying ads has brought a mixed response, with some industry figures questioning whether the ads will be effective.
The announcement came in a blogpost where US users were told they could expect to see "an occasional ad in your Instagram feed" over the next few months.
Initially, these will come from brands already operating on the site, with Instagram reassuring users in the blogpost that they would be "enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favourite magazine".
Instagram also emphasised that users would have control, adding: "If you see an ad you don't like, you'll be able to hide it and provide feedback about what didn't feel right".
Industry commentators suggested that the development had been coming for months, after Facebook paid $1bn to acquire the business.
Businessweek's Joshua Brustein thought the comparison with a magazine was instructive. "No one complains about advertisements in magazine; some actually buy the things just to look at the ads," he wrote.
Meanwhile, Adrian Moxley, co-founder of WeSEE, the visual classification company, wondered how ads would be targeted. He argued that if advertisers relied on Facebook's demographic data, then ads would be targeted only in the broadest sense of the word and would not use Instagram's key asset of visual imagery.
Moxley said it was important to look at the type of content each user was sharing as this represented the areas of interest for each consumer which could then be used to deliver relevant ads.
But, he warned, such pictures often did not have any text description so advertisers relying on text-tagging would find it far more difficult to classify content. They would need to "gather the visual data from the images themselves to get a steer on what each consumer is interested in".
This was essential, Moxley added, because otherwise Instagram risked "alienating its user base with poorly-targeted, irrelevant and intrusive advertising".
Data sourced from Instagram, Businessweek; additional content by Warc staff