Instagram’s Unskippable Ads

Written by Jonathan Baker with insights from Christina Botte, Director of Social Media at EGC

A new Instagram feature is in the testing phase. Get ready for unskippable ads—or “ad breaks”—which may frustrate users but likely be loved by brands that advertise on the platform.

Unskippable—and unstoppable

Matthe Tye, a spokesperson for Instagram told The Verge: “We’re always testing formats that can drive value for advertisers.” The platform’s latest “test format” is unskippable video ads, which means that non-paying users will need to become more patient. The hope is that these same users, however, may develop an interest in brands they wouldn’t have otherwise noticed (once they get over the frustration of having to sit through these video spots). This will take time.

User reaction to unskippable ads

The above mentions of “patience” and “frustration” perfectly describe the overall user opinion toward unskippable ads. A report in Tech Crunch stated that this negative reaction has ranged from users threatening to close out their Instagram accounts to those who will discontinue using the app if they were interrupted by ad breaks. This brings up the question:

Did these users feel the same way when they saw branded content on YouTube, and did they quit watching content when they could not stop ads that appeared on screen? 

Taking a cue from YouTube

Yes, the concept of unskippable ads is nothing new. YouTube—arguably the king of video platforms—has regularly shown ads to non-paying users before allowing them to watch content they click on. Whether YouTube’s practice inspired Instagram to follow suit is anyone’s guess, unskippable ads may also be the result of other developments.

Reels and related video platforms

In 2020, Instagram introduced Reels into its portfolio. Within two years, Instagram Reels took the world by storm. As observed by Hannah Getahun in Business Insider, its model was similar to TikTok, which launched in 2016. (Interestingly—and ironically—Reels may become the video platform of choice for marketers should TikTok should eventually be banned.)

The increasing influence of Instagram

The Business Insider article noted that Instagram outperformed TikTok last year when comparing the number of downloads and percentage of growth between each platform. While this may seem like an indicator of Instagram’s power and reach, there are two questions which balance the future possibilities:

  • Will unskippable ads hinder this upward path for Instagram, considering the current negative reaction among users?
  • Will users grow to accept and (dare we say, appreciate) this new type of branded video content?

As noted earlier, this new ad format from Instagram will take time to (hopefully) catch on with the public. Brands and marketers, on the other hand, are already enthusiastic about the possibilities, as Christina Botte, EGC’s Director of Social Media states:

Our clients now have the chance to maximize exposure for their content with unskippable ads, ensuring undivided attention for a set duration. We’re eager to test this out! 

If your brand is visible on Instagram, and you either have or are considering applying video to your marketing mix, don’t let the release of unskippable ads intimidate you. The account, creative, and social media teams at EGC collectively—and successfully—devise video campaigns that users want to see.

Want to know how we do this? Contact us to find out.

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