Is Instagram's carousel ad platform a game-changer?

The social network continues its charm offensive on brands with a new feature. But will it work, Gurjit Degun asks.

Instagram has been upping its game in the social media space since launching its advertising service about 18 months ago. The photo-sharing site expanded into eight countries and, at the
end of last year, attracted 300 million monthly active users globally.

It was therefore a "natural evolution", according to Amy Cole, the head of business operations at Instagram, to roll out its carousel ad platform globally this month.

As well as posting images and videos, brands can now offer extra content to "tell deeper stories". The carousel function allows users to swipe left to see up to four additional images, and brands will be able to link to their website.

At first glance, it appears to be just another feature for brands. What can they achieve by adding a couple more images to their posts? Cole tells Campaign that the platform will inspire brands to develop "compelling stories" and be more creative.

She highlights a campaign by the automotive brand GMC, known for its SUVs and pick-up trucks, that uses four images to show a panoramic view from one of its cars, and explains how fashion retailers can share ideas on how to wear the latest trends.

However, Tom Crossley, the managing partner for digital innovation at WCRS, thinks the creative side will be the biggest challenge. "Lots of brands fail to see the opportunity," he says. "But when a brand understands what is possible, you can create really interesting stories that engage and also get across your brand message."

Instagram is not one to rest on its laurels. The social network will also be offering better ad-targeting through demographics and interests – in addition to age, location and gender – later this year. There are also technical innovations designed to make it easier for brands to spend money, such as allowing them to purchase ads through the Instagram and Facebook buying platforms.

Facebook has shown how social networks can develop into proper advertising platforms. If the recent updates are anything to go by, even if brands fail to see the opportunity in the carousel feature, there is no doubt Instagram will find more ways to entice advertisers and users.

MAYBE Jonathan Palmer, head of social, Vizeum

"Brands are chomping at the bit to make the most of Instagram. The success of its ad platform will be dictated by its ability to retain the style of inspirational images that make Instagram popular rather than random sales messages."

NO Drew Burdon, vice-president, executive strategy director, R/GA London

"I can’t help feeling that this feature goes against why we love Instagram. Storytelling from a single frame is what has made the platform so addictive. Might this enable brands to drag out their stories to unnecessary lengths?"

NO Tim Shepherd, director of technology, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

"I wouldn’t call it a game-changer. However, it is good to see that Instagram is investigating new ad formats. This will lead to more engaging content and give brands the ability to tell more of a story. Interesting? Yes. Game-changer? No."

YES Anna Vogt, head of planning, DLKW Lowe

"The challenge will be to remain true to the platform by curating beautifully crafted stories. Allowing users to click through to a site is a big leap in seeing what role Instagram can play as part of the media mix."

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