In early September 2013, Instagram told The Wall Street Journal that within the following 12 months it would begin to feature advertisements. At the time of that announcement Instagram had no set date for when ad placements would begin or what form they would take or how they would appear in user feeds.
Instagram’s director of business operations, Emily White, has been in contact with all of the major brands that have an Instagram account, including Ford and Coca-Cola. According to White, while talking to the WSJ, the biggest challenge she faced was trying to “figure out how to integrate marketing without jeopardizing Instagram’s cool factor.”
I’d say that was a very tall order. By allowing ads, Instagram runs the risk of falling by the wayside as other, ad-less Instagram-alikes inevitably take its place, doubtless by firstly making a big thing of said lack of ads. Nothing says uncool like corporate sponsorship. And given that Instagram is the kind of app very much directed towards use via cellphone, along with the visual dimensions of the scroll-down design on such mobile devices, it’s hard to see how the sudden, unbidden appearance of the latest car none of us can afford or a bottle of feel-good carbonated fizz, probably taking up the whole screen, won’t feel both intrusive and annoying.
Saturation is not always a good thing. Too much exposure to a product and I start ignoring it purposefully and completely. Nothing is guaranteed to irritate more than to be in the middle of a TV program for it to suddenly stop at a key moment to tell you that it has been sponsored by Product N. At that moment, I hate nothing on the planet more than I hate Product N. I want to destroy Product N. I want to see Product N run into the ground and crunched into the dust until it becomes Product 0.
I imagine a large part of the reason why today people watch their television series online is so that they are not disturbed by a thousand shiny commercials. It is a constant source of surprise that most companies appear to be unaware of just how annoying their ads can be. It’s like being cold-called while you’re relaxing in bed.
Ads on Instagram will be its kiss of death. The whole point of the app, apart from simple photo sharing, I suppose, is also to make people feel minimally artistic. Add a commercial and that has gone instantly. White worries about the Instagram “cool factor” but by putting it out there as yet another digital billboard, I’d say she no longer has anything to worry about.
Oh well… bye-bye Instagram; it was nice knowing you.