After six months of testing, Instagram's video ads are officially here.
Instagram, owned by Facebook, has deals to show 15-second autoplay spots from Disney, Activision, Lancome, Banana Republic and CW. The ads will start appearing today and roll out over the coming weeks. For instance, Disney is promoting its film, Big Hero 6, with a video showing animated characters posing as if they were taking selfies.
"We felt like we wanted to step up in a big way for Big Hero 6," said Anthy Price, svp of media at Disney. "And we're excited about video."
Instagram has been unusually hands-on with brands in regards to its static image ads, which launched last year. And the same is true with video. The company reviews all clips to ensure that they contain mostly fresh content, fit the vibe of the platform and are not simply repurposed TV/Web commercials.
Video has become an important part of mobile advertising, and Instagram rivals like Tumblr and Snapchat recently launched similar ad products. Snapchat, the mobile messaging app with a youthful audience, sold its first video ad this month to Universal Pictures, which promoted a trailer for the movie Ouija.
But it can be a delicate dance, introducing potentially intrusive ads to an app that had been commercial free. Some early Instagram advertisers that tried out the sponsored images heard negative comments from users who didn't enjoy the salesy activity in their feeds. Still, Instagram is sharing feedback that digs deeper than comment sentiment and looks at brand awareness and ad recall, which the company claims has been positive on all fronts. And the video advertisers going live this morning shared the opinion that it was best to be first, bolstering their brands' reputations as innovators.
"It wasn't a hard decision for us," said Brian Chang, assistant vp of media at Lancome USA. "We, as a brand, wanted to take advantage of being first to market."
Lancome is promoting a new fragrance and mascara. Its agency, DigitasLBi, was the go-between with Instagram, and Lancome's entry into the video ad deal wasn't finalized until this week. Therefore, the brand's team had to rush to complete video creative. Others, like Activision, which is promoting Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, had months to prepare.
Omnicom-Instagram Deal Bears Fruit
For its Instagram ad, Activision is sharing a 15-second clip from a longer live-action video that will debut today on its Facebook page, which has 23 million fans.
"Our audience is becoming increasingly mobile-centric, and Instagram is a mobile-centric platform," said Jonathan Anastas, head of digital and social media at Activision. "So it's an important part of the marketing mix."
Anastas said he expects the ad to initially reach 2 million users, and after a lift from likes and shares, millions more will see it and drive traffic to the video on Facebook.
"One of the great advantages of working on the marketing team for Call of Duty is that gamers broadly—and our target audience specifically—just inhale content," Anastas said.
So, he's not worried about negative feedback from showing sponsored videos. Activision works with Omnicom Media Group, which inked an exclusive, $40 million deal with Instagram last spring that gives the media agency's clients first dibs on new ad products.
Banana Republic's first video ad is a look behind the scenes at the company with sketches of holiday fashions. The video flips through the sketches in fast-motion, using a time-manipulation effect made popular by Hyperlapse, Instagram's first standalone app.
"We are targeting women because these are fashion illustrations and the focus is on women's products," said Marissa Webb, creative director and evp of design at Banana Republic.
The targeting of ads on Instagram is still rather basic, but it gives marketers the ability to reach people by age, gender and country.
Meanwhile, CW, also an Omnicom partner, is promoting its program The Flash, with a quick clip of passengers in a plane on the runway who see a burst of light out the window and then the hero of the show running by.
"We created it from scratch and were sort of wondering where to put it when the Instagram opportunity popped up, and it was like kismet," said Caty Burgess, head of digital marketing at CW. "We wanted to take full advantage of the Instagram opportunity and do something [memorable]."
Check out some of the Instagram ads debuting today below.