Brands have been marketing via Instagram almost from the get-go. It’s a super approachable format, particularly popular with a desirable demographic and, obviously, a great tool for communication. If you are a brand that has any kind of a story that can be expressed visually, what’s not to love?


From the perspective of Instagram (and parent company, Facebook), the only thing missing from this was profit. By 2013 (only a couple of years after launch) they had a 150 million active users a month, closing in quickly on Twitter, but had yet to bring advertising, beyond a slow drip of sponsored content, to the party.


It’s understandable why they were tentative. The generally followed first rule of social network owners is to build an audience (and solid info on that audience) before trying to sell that audience (and info) to brands. These are staggering growth numbers (400 active monthly users at time of writing), built largely on the ultra-cool and friendly nature of the platform. Any quick changes that jeopardised those characteristics would risk Instagram losing that hard won audience as quickly as it had been created. But those same characteristics, mined carefully, represent a wonderful environment for brands.


After a very slow testing period, in which a few choice brands were allowed to run ads, Instagram recently allowed all brands to run adverts on the format and brands are racing to get involved (eMarketer has Instagram outstripping Twitter and Google mobile display ads in the US by 2017). Now it’s open to all, what are the benefits of advertising on Instagram?


  • The audience on Instagram is primed, highly engaged and (similarly to Facebook) can be targeted very precisely.


  • Precise means that local business’ in particular can benefit. With the ability to target very specific regional audiences, and with (currently) low competition and CPCs, the door is open for smaller and medium sized local brands to reach their prospects.


  • The general demographics are very desirable: 73% of users are between 15 and 35 years old, 48% of users are professionals while 46% have degrees.


  • Right now anyone advertising on the format could still be considered an early adopter. The format hasn’t been flooded and people aren’t tired of seeing the ads yet.


  • It offers, through the ultra clean photo and short video format, a pure visual experience. Consumers love it, and so do the advertisers who have been waiting for a digital format that doesn’t force their brand into a cluttered space.


  • Within the apparently simple media space, there is an impressive range of formats. From a standard image, a short video, a ‘Marquee’ campaign (which pushes a brand heavily for one day) to a carousel (see the above picture), that allow a brand more space to tell their story.



It won’t work for everyone. Obviously some kind of visual narrative is a must. And although the quality has been relatively high so far the more brands advertising, the lower the bar will drop and the less cachet the format will hold. But for the moment, this is an exciting space to be involved in.


If you have any questions about how your brand might benefit from being on Instagram, you only have to ask.


By Oliver Brown