Instagram advertising coming to a screen near you

The worst-kept secret in Menlo Park finally came true Thursday: Facebook’s Instagram has launched advertising for U.S. users.

Instagram announced this in a company blog post, but rumors have been swirling for months. Facebook has pretty much confirmed Instagram advertising in recent interviews.

[contextly_sidebar id=”373af9b90c1e63321f6be5ebe8502640″]Here’s the announcement from Instagram:

Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands. After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.

We’ll also make sure you have control. If you see an ad you don’t like, you’ll be able to hide it and provide feedback about what didn’t feel right. We’re relying on your input to help us continually improve the Instagram experience.

As always, you own your own photos and videos. The introduction of advertising won’t change this.

Instagram notes that, at first, ads will only be served from trusted brands on the platform, but could later be opened up to smaller companies. The company assured users that it will “start slow,” with sponsored photos and videos.

This could be huge for Facebook, which also just opened up a potential revenue firehose in mobile app action ads. The implied plan ever since Facebook acquired Instagram was that it would eventually monetize the platform. Instagram last month hit the 150 million monthly active user mark, so advertisers will have plenty of eyeballs.

Mobile advertising has been a boon for Facebook, which recently posted its best fiscal quarter yet. In the second quarter of 2013, mobile accounted for 41 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue. That number will surely grow when Facebook reports its earnings for the third quarter of the fiscal year. Major brands such as Starbucks and Nike would likely pay a hefty price to be among the first to buy their way into users’ Instagram feeds.

Inside Facebook previously spoke with Kenshoo’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, Todd Herrold, about the potential Instagram holds as an advertising channel. He noted that Facebook’s efforts to standardize image ad formats is a natural progression to having sponsored content on Instagram:

We’ve spoken (with Facebook) about Instagram, but it really has been separate. I think it’s a big opportunity and I think that Facebook is moving in that direction. … There’s so much going on at Facebook in terms of monetization, so it’s not like it’s an immediate critical need. You want to take a slow, thoughtful, planned path and test. I think that’s what we’re going to see with Instagram over the next year — tests to see how people respond and what can be done.

Readers: How do you feel about advertising coming to Instagram?

(Image below is an Inside Facebook illustration. Not an example of an ad.)