Instagram launched 60-second ads last week with Guinness being the first UK brand to use them. The activity, part of its ‘Made of More’ campaign, will run on TV, digital, social and PR. But in a first for the brand the ad will initially launch on Instagram before hitting other screens.
“Instagram has grown enormously in scale in the past 12 months and is a channel best suited for stylish and striking imagery. We believed it was the perfect medium to shine a light on the beauty of our film to a discerning audience,” explains Stephen O’Kelly, the brand’s marketing director for Western Europe.
“The audience we are after seek all new information on their social media feeds. We recognise that our brand content is most valuable to millennial audiences when it is new, so we want to give social influencers and brand advocates the chance to share it socially before it airs on TV.”
The launch of 60-second video ads is the latest move by Instagram to boost its nascent ad business. In September, it began selling ads to brands of any size in more than 30 countries and has introduced a number of new ad formats including ‘Marquee’ ads, which offer brands high-profile slots, and landscape photos and videos.
Instagram wants to get more advertisers on board, but knows it cannot force advertisers into proprietary formats and lengths which mean they have to create content specifically for its platform.
Amy Cole, head of brand development for Instagram in EMEA, explains: “People and businesses come to Instagram to find inspiration. With nearly half of Instagrammers following a brand, it’s never been more important for advertisers to have the tools and creative flexibility to tell their story with imagery – whether through landscape ad formats, multi-image placements or various video lengths.
“With our new 60″ ad format, Guinness will be able to further amplify their beautifully shot hero creative.”
Bringing long-form content Instagram
Up until now, brands have only been able to run 30-second ads on Instagram and analysts are concerned that due to the interactive and short-form nature of most content on Instagram the longer format will not resonate.
Jennifer Wise, senior analyst for mobile marketing and advertising at Forrester Research, explains: “Instagram is a digital site and usually seen on mobile where even the common 15-second ad often falls flat as it’s interruptive, too long compared to the content the user wants to experience, isn’t contextually relevant and isn’t interactive.”
However, Henry Arkell, head of social advertising at media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD where he works with brands such as Renault, says 30-second ads on Instagram “really work” and that adding the ability to run 60-second videos can only be a positive move.
“There is a very high completion rate [for 30-second ads] on Instagram. It is higher than many other social platforms so the consumer appetite [for longer form content] is there. Not everyone will watch a 60-second ad but the same is true for Facebook and YouTube. And brands can optimise towards people that are more likely to complete views,” he says.
‘Don’t just stick a TV ad on Instagram’
For brands that are considering using Instagram’s new format, there are some basic rules to bear in mind. Guinness’ O’Kelly says the brand worked directly with Instagram to ensure it created creative in formats that users “love to engage with”. Other marketers will need to make sure they are doing the same.
Forrester Research’s Wise cautions against brands simply running their TV campaigns on Instagram. She points to the fact that the long story-arc used in TV ads doesn’t apply on Instagram where brands will need to “hook the user in seconds to make an impressions”.
“People are scrolling until something catches their eye on Instagram. If the brand waits until the 45-second mark, for example, to present its name, offer or action the user can take it’s too late. The user will never see it.
“Brands can keep the 60-second ads for interested consumers, but they must make sure to still front-load the message to make the other quick impressions count.”
Where this format could work well is for tent-pole events such as the Super Bowl. The timing of the launch just days before the biggest event in the American marketing calendar is unlikely to be a coincidence, with T-Mobile one of the first US brands to use the format to show an extended version of its Super Bowl ad.
Brands should also bear in mind that most consumers will be watching, at least initially, without the sound on and on smaller screens on-the-go.
“Depending on the consumer’s location or the presence of headphones, sound is possible but not a guarantee. The creative will have to rely on sight and motion – not sound – to resonate with the consumer,” says Wise.
“Brands have to align the ad with the experience on Instagram. Why is the user there? To catch-up with friends and to find new things through imagery. The ad has to do this too otherwise it is irrelevant at best, interruptive and frustrating at worst.”
Rival or partner to TV?
Instagram, as well as Facebook and Twitter, still ostensibly pitch themselves as a complement to TV rather than a competitor. Arkell cites the example of Renault, which uses TV and social media in tandem – running big TV brand campaigns but using Facebook to add reach, particularly among consumers aged 30-35 and light TV viewers.
“TV is a great medium and cost efficient but Facebook, YouTube and now Instagram are very efficient ways of increasing coverage.”
Henry Arkell, head of social media, Manning Gottlieb OMD
Despite this, he also believes Instagram is after TV’s budget. He points to the fact that both Facebook and Instagram have sales structures set up so that the top TV spenders in the UK have their own personal account manager. That is not surprising given that the biggest TV advertisers are also likely the biggest brands with the biggest budgets so they are “simply following the ad dollars”.
“Ultimately TV dollars are still the majority of advertising investment that brands make. It would be very naïve to think Facebook and YouTube don’t want to take some of that money.
“It is the role of the media agency to work out what combination of media leads to the best results – whether the outcome is sales or a lift in brand metrics.”