Instagram Begins Testing Ads on IGTV, Its Long-Form Video Destination

Viewers of Instagram Live videos will also be able to buy badges

IGTV screen
Instagram began setting the stage for ads on IGTV in January. Instagram

Key insights:

What has perhaps been one of the worst-kept secrets in the social media universe is now official: Instagram will begin testing ads next week on IGTV, its destination for long-form video, with a “small group” of U.S. creators and advertisers.

The ads, built for mobile and up to 15 seconds long, will appear when users click to watch IGTV videos from previews in their feed. Non-skippable and skippable ads will be part of the test, and revenue will be split between Instagram and creators, but exact terms were not disclosed.

Established creators will be included in the test, but the program will, at least initially, target emerging creators, Instagram vp of business and media Jim Squires told Adweek. Ikea, Puma and Sephora are among the brands involved in the early testing.

It’s a long-awaited next step for creators looking to monetize their IGTV programming. Parent company Facebook provides funding for select premium publishers to create content for its long-form video platform, Facebook Watch, and creators have had access to monetization options such as preroll ads and mid-roll in-stream ads. Creators get 55% of the revenue, while the social network keeps the other 45%.

Outside of the Facebook family of apps, TikTok introduced playable ads last summer, providing previews of apps or games for users, but TikTok did not provide specific numbers at the time, only saying in its developer documents that the ad format “remarkably improves” user conversions and clickthroughs, “boosting user acquisition” for less money in a shorter timespan.

IGTV’s timing is notable for brand marketers who have otherwise been turning their focus on platforms that they know to be tried-and-true during the pandemic, said Vic Drabicky, founder and CEO of digital agency January Digital.

“When things are going really good and the economy’s good, people test all damn day,” he added. “When things are iffy, it’s a little more conservative.”

Instagram

The new ad offering rolls out as consumer behavior has changed in quarantine. Instagram did not break out viewership data for IGTV, only saying that roughly 800 million people are watching livestreams daily across all Facebook properties.

Kin, a lifestyle entertainment company, won’t be included in the beta program, but has been “waiting for this type of monetization,” said George Stewart, chief revenue officer of Kin.

Views and engagement on IGTV have surged over the past six months, accounting for as much as 20% of total video views across IGTV, YouTube and Facebook Watch. “I am excited to see it all come together,” he added.

Instagram began setting the stage for ads on IGTV in January, when it enabled people to upload videos to IGTV the same way they already uploaded videos and photos to the main feed. A month later, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri teased that the platform was “exploring more ways to make it sustainable for creators.”

In April, Instagram revamped its standalone IGTV app and added the capability for creators to preview the first 15 seconds of their IGTV videos in Stories, instead of sharing those videos to Stories via static stickers.

Instagram said it will continue testing variations of IGTV ads throughout the year, adding in a blog post that it “will be thoughtful about expansion to ensure we get the experience right.”

As Squires noted, “As with any new experiences, it’s going to take time for the payouts to build momentum.”

For it to work, the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing network will have to establish itself as a “must-watch channel” to disrupt what is already on the market, including Facebook Watch, said Mary Keane-Dawson, CEO of influencer marketing agency Takumi Group.

“To be successful, Instagram will need to manage a careful balancing act that will attract both creators and brands through an attractive revenue model, as well as consumers with content that is authentic and tailored to the platform and its audience,” she added.

A new monetization tool for creators: badges

As further incentive for creators to monetize their Instagram content, the company is giving creators who sign up for Instagram Live a new way to make money, with badges that can be purchased by fans during livestreams.

Instagram


david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.
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