To Conquer Instagram’s Explore Ads, Storytelling Must Outweigh Revenue

On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Carly Carson, director of social at PMG.

Instagram’s new addition of ads within its Explore section is yet another way the platform continues to expand inventory opportunities for brands and monetize highly valuable real estate.

Nearly a billion users visit Instagram every month, and the platform estimates that more than 50% of users visit the Explore feed – giving advertisers a new set of highly engaged eyeballs, with time to spare.

Since the Explore feed’s content is highly tailored to users’ interests and browsing behavior, it’s important for marketers to think smart about the content they are placing within this space.

Stop the scroll

Brands need to be cognizant of the fact that their ads will be shown in yet another feed-based environment. It will be important for brands to find ways to stand out within that scroll.

One way they can do this is through the use of videos that will seize users’ attention immediately. Within the first two to three seconds, the videos need strong movement – not a text overlay – and must incorporate branding to drive ad recall. As always, they must be conscious of the mobile-only ad space.

Ditch the gloss

Users visit the Explore tab to be entertained and engage in content that they are passionate about, which means brands should take a step back and find ways to make authentic connections. How can they make their content feel native to the platform? Glossy, high-production, TV-style ads are not the way to go within this inventory.

There’s also an opportunity for brands to leverage influencer content within this space. Fashion brands, in particular, are no strangers to influencer content, so they should experiment with ways to continue using influencers to create highly engaging content that feels native to the Explore feed.

Lean-in approach

While speed is important, the Explore tab also provides a unique opportunity to engage in long-form storytelling. While IGTV has become a place where brands are sharing long-form content, there is currently no ad opportunity there.

The Explore tab could potentially become a place where brands can create useful, entertaining content that doesn’t have to be constrained to the short-form, 10- to 15-second sweet spot that exists within In-feed and Stories placements today. This gives brands the ability to find a formula for content that could be easily replicated and continue to provide value. For food or beauty brands, this could be leveraging quick tutorials. This content can be a low cost to produce but still add value and variety to their audiences.

Context is key

Consider targeting carefully. At the onset, the Explore tab will just be another inventory checkbox, meaning advertisers will only be able to target with the same parameters that they use for other campaigns. There are currently no contextual controls available, so if a food brand wants to show up within recipe content, that isn’t a bespoke option. Brands need to feel comfortable knowing that their content could be sandwiched between irrelevant ads.

Facebook and Instagram are always working to ensure they are providing the most useful experience for their users. There is definitely an opportunity for them to allow more contextual control for their advertisers, though. This could provide an added layer of intent for advertisers, and also ensure an extra level of brand safety.

Advertisers will need to test and learn to see what works for their unique audiences. What’s the optimal content length? What type of content performs best? Promotional? Editorial?

Advertisers should take this as an opportunity to step up their game and ensure that the content that’s placed within the Explore tab will add value for their users. Otherwise, this will just lead to another watered-down consumer experience where ad revenues are more important than storytelling.

Follow PMG (@agencypmg) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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