Instagram Video Invites Ads Speculation, Puts Vine on Notice

Brands are stoked, but Facebook will likely move slowly

The possibilities surrounding Instagram implementing a Vine-like video feature has the tech world abuzz today, after TechCrunch reported the popular mobile app's parent, Facebook, would unveil the move on Thursday. For the marketing-minded, the development creates at least a couple of huge questions.

As digital video continues to gain momentum, will a steady stream of user-generated video become the impetus for Facebook implementing ads on Instagram? The online model is certainly proven with YouTube. And will Instagram videos kill Vine—just as it's gaining traction with brands?

If ads are in the offing for Instagram, said Dave Otten, CEO of LongTail Video, the video formats will be unique to the social marketplace while going "well beyond the typical pre-roll that you see today."

Instagram has more than 90 million users compared to 13 million for Vine, which is property of Facebook's chief social rival, Twitter. While the Facebook-versus-Twitter battle lines are being drawn, marketers don't believe Instagram videos will suck the life out of Vine.

"Both have their place within the social ecosystem," Otten said. In fact, it may depend on what a users preferred network is for video.

"In the short-term, there is a place for both video platforms and usage will be determined by the user's preferred network," said Amanda Peters, iCrossing social lead. "Those who favor Twitter may continue to use Vine because Vine videos show up in-stream in a user's Twitter feed. While people who spend more time on Facebook may be more likely to use Instagram video.

"Long-term, Instagram should be able to leverage its significantly larger install base for quick adoption of Instagram video and could ultimately surpass Vine," Peters added. "But a lot will depend on whether Instagram's video offering is unique and differentiating enough for users to care."

While Vine is hot at the moment, social video platforms like Viddy and Vyclone are also surely watching Instagram's moves closely.

"I think its main competitors will ultimately be Vine and Viddy," explained Liz Eswein, co-founder of social marketing startup The Mobile Media Lab.

Brands will rapidly build an Instagram video presence, predicted Ali Rana, Millward Brown's svp and head of its Emerging Media Lab, but Facebook will likely continue taking its time before introducing ads on the app. "Until Instagram video achieves mass consumer acceptance, explicit video advertising would be too disruptive to the consumer experience, especially given that there is currently no other paid advertising on the platform," he said.

Marketers confirm Rana's notion that brands are stoked about Instagram video possibilities.

"There is huge opportunity for monetization by enabling brands to reach consumers with video on Instagram," said Michael Kelly, social media marketing lead for licorice maker Red Vines, which has experimented with Vine campaigns. "The success of Vine in getting brands using the app and number of consumers sharing those Vines suggests that there is definitely value in incorporating this type of short form, snackable video content in the marketing mix."

Christine Whitemarsh, social media lead for automotive brand Turtle Wax, looks forward to the feature, stating she wants to implement it into her brand's summer-long #WaxOnShirtOff effort. And count Whitemarsh in as a media buyer who would gladly test Instagram paid ads if they became available.

"We would be interested in exploring the advertising capabilities, their analytics platform/offering and how granular they can go from a targeting perspective," she said. "We are intrigued to see real-time capabilities with respect to serving up an ad unit based on a specific hashtag, user or mention."

Paul Alfieri, marketing vp at Turn, added that "advertisers will surely be interested in Facebook's ability to bring Instagram video to its one-billion-plus global users."

And they'll surely look closely at what comes out of Facebook's press conference this Thursday. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based digital giant declined comment.

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