Earlier this year, photo-sharing mobile app Instagram (now Facebook-owned) updated its advertising offering by introducing its “Carousel” ad platform. Take up has been slow but steady, and we are now starting to see the new approach bear fruit. In the latest instalment of ADTEKR’s Social Advertising Series, we take a look at the adtech behind Carousel, analyse initial performance and consider how this ad platform might develop in the future.
How Carousel works
Instagram’s advertising offering, which quietly launched in 2013, has been all about native. The idea is that a marketer posts a “Sponsored” photo that fits seamlessly into the user’s photo-stream. Instagram’s USP is that it is clean and uncluttered; unlike Facebook or Twitter, Instagram keeps it simple by only allowing its 300 million users to alter and post simple photos or videos and to share comments. Advertisers try to fit in by posting ads that resemble user-generated posts.
Carousel compliments, rather than revolutionises, this native approach: it is designed specifically for the Instagram experience. Instagram’s announcement of the new offering included the following: “We’ve heard from marketers that they want to tell sequenced stories in beautiful, compelling ways that lead to meaningful results for their businesses”. Without tarnishing the native aesthetic that Instagram users adore, Carousel gives marketers greater flexibility. They can include more than one photo in a sponsored post, which users can flick left to see or can scroll through in the same manner as they would usually. The main change is the addition of a link in the photo to an in-app browser that is intended to drive users to the advertisers own site (while allowing Instagram to collect rich and valuable click-through data).
A host of big (mainly US) names have already run ads on Carousel: Old Navy and Banana Republic (clothing), Samsung (electronics), L’Oreal Paris (cosmetics) and Showtime (TV). Old Navy loves the concept of “serialized content that tells a story”. Airbnb, the rapidly-growing vacation accommodation site, came up with an eye-catching Carousel campaign, following an Airbnb guest across her international travels and providing links to the Airbnb website. Carousel was just one part of Airbnb’s multi-platform media blitz, but it’s still highly encouraging for Instagram that Carousel was seen as a key part of the media plan.
According to Facebook, this new Instagram ad format has helped increase click-through rates by an average of 12%. Cost-per-conversion for advertisers is apparently down by up to 50%, and is at least 20% lower than the previous single-image ad offering. Some individual advertisers have released figures that backup Facebook’s claims; Foodpanda say their click-through rates are up 180%, with a 39% reduction on cost-per-impression, while Neiman Marcus claims to have seen 300% higher conversion rates.
Instagram’s previous ad offering was clean, simple, and true to the brand. However admirable that approach may have been, it failed to monetise the app the way Facebook would have wanted. Carousel looks to be something of a happy medium – a way for Instagram to maintain a degree of control over the ad content posted to its users, while giving advertisers more freedom and a better opportunity to turn views into meaningful impressions. For an app that has always wanted to maintain look-and-feel above all else, this feels like a calculated move. ADTEKR looks forward to seeing further proliferation of the Carousel model and the innovative campaigns brands might use it for.