Instagram, the photo and video-sharing platform, has confirmed it has been testing a new ad format that would enable brands to sponsor influencer posts and then promote them just like any other ad.

Called “branded content ads”, the new offering forms part of Instagram’s broader strategy of connecting advertisers and creators in more formal partnerships, Advertising Age reported.

The Facebook-owned platform has hosted branded content tools since 2017, but advertisers who paid to use celebrities and other influencers in campaigns were restricted by the posts reaching only what followers could see.

With branded content ads, Instagram is now looking to extend the offer so that advertisers can promote posts beyond an influencer’s organic reach. In addition, the branded content partnership program is being opened up for anyone to apply to join.

Ashley Yuki, a product management lead at Instagram, announced the update at a briefing earlier this week that included several influencers, advertisers and publishers.

She said that Instagram had been testing the new format since last year and asserted that it has helped advertisers to overcome some limitations associated with organic branded content.

“Brands are seeing that this branded content ad product sometimes helps overcome challenges they have with organic branded content,” she said. “[They are] exploring ways that brands can amplify branded content.”

Eyal Baumel, CEO of Yoola, a video network and distribution platform for creators which has been participating in the tests, told Adweek that branded content ads “will help increase the reach for influencers’ content so they get free promotions, and Instagram will have new inventory to monetise”.

“It was just a matter of time until social media platforms tried to grab part of the branded content/influencer marketing pie, as they see billions of dollars in transactions that happen on their platforms, and some currently aren’t getting any of that,” he added.

Sourced from Advertising Age, Adweek; additional content by WARC staff