How Capital One Used Instagram to Boost Ad Recall by 16 Percent

It's all about putting influencers in control

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Last week, Instagram finally turned on the spigot to its advertising business, allowing all marketers to target its app users with filter-enhanced photo and video promos. And if case study examples from brands like Capital One are any indication, better targeting and action-based promos may indeed help the photo-sharing app hit its expected $2 billion in ad sales by 2017.

Back in January, Capital One and agency T3 wanted a new way to implement the brand's famous "What's in your wallet?" campaign on Instagram. The marketing team was also intrigued about whether Instagram's user-generated content could be utilized in other channels.

Generally speaking, Noha Abdalla, Capital One's senior director of digital brand strategy and social media, raved about the social-media app.

"We've found that Instagram is the place where most of the millennials are, and it's a rich place to reach them," she said. "Instagram is more compelling than Pinterest or Tumblr—just given the audience sizes and growth."

For five weeks, the financial giant gave three popular Instagrammers—Zach Rose, Kimberly Genevieve and Paul Octavious—the keys to its Instagram account. The photographers then snapped pictures of the interesting things they keep in their wallets such as love letters, photographs and tickets.

"Many people carry around a wallet that has something sentimental in it other than what's functional," Abdalla explained. "Oftentimes, that memory is an indicator of something in the future."

A total of nine pictures were turned into Instagram ads; the images were also posted to the brand's and the photographers' accounts.

All told, the images boosted Capital One's ad recall 16 percent, particularly among Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. With people ages 45 and older, ad recall increased 25 percent, which Abdalla said was an interesting twist.

"The only explanation that we can come up with is the fact that the older age set is maybe more familiar with Capital One," she said.

There was also some lift specific to millennials: Capital One's brand favorability shot up 3 percent for people between 21 and 24 years old.

Based on those numbers, Capital One is also using user-generated content in multichannel campaigns. For instance, it is now employing Instagram's new carousel ad unit—which lets brands string together multiple photos in one ad—to promote its reward program with ride-hailing mobile app Uber.

And, the brand's currently running a social campaign asking people to submit their best photos while showing how they use their credit-card perks. Those photos may potentially show up in a print or out-of-home ad.

"Our plan for that is not only to select and showcase those winners in social but to also potentially use those images in other channels," Abdalla said.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.