Instagram Says First Ad Results Are “Promising” With Recall Up 32%, Shows It Wants TV Brand Dollars

Instagram may prove a valuable platform for advertisers. Instagram released its first results on ads since they began appearing November 1st. Brands saw average ad recall up 3X while brand message awareness was up 10% across four campaigns, with Levi’s reaching 7.4 million US 18-34 year olds in 9 days while Ben & Jerry’s reached 9.8 million US 18-35 year olds in 8 days. These don’t prove real return on investment, but Instagram calls the results “promising”.

Instagram’s highlighting of reach, recall, and awareness shows it sees itself as a host of institutional brand advertising that generates demand, rather than a platform for direct performance advertising that fulfills demand and directly leads to sales. This pits Instagram against TV and print media opposed to Google Search and most banner ads.

Advertisers typically use television commercials and magazine ads because they can send millions of people a vivid message they remember. If brands can get the same out of Instagram, they might shift some of their marketing spend there. Of course, these results come straight from the mouth of Instagram and aren’t super detailed. It will likely need independent studies showing positive results, or to actually show the ads make people buy more before brands start pouring money in.

The advantage of these ads for Instagram is that they don’t rely on user clicks, and therefore don’t try to pull people away from the app’s experience. The photo and video app is designed to be a relatively lightweight, relaxing, passive experience where you let the art wash over you. Brand ads of pretty people in jeans, tasty ice cream, and luxurious jewelry fit that format.

Screenshot 2013-12-19 at 8.56.57 AM

Five days into its first campaigns, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said 5% of ad impressions had led to Likes, indicating at least some users were enjoying the ads. Still, comment reels on the ads have shown significant backlash from users who are pissed about marketers injecting themselves into their previously ad-free feeds.

At the time on stage at GigaOm’s conference, Systrom said about the ads, “Are they making us hundreds of millions of dollars per day? No, but that wasn’t the goal. We announced we’d take it slow doing it the right way.” Last week at the launch of the Instagram Direct messaging feature, Systrom noted it was too early to discuss monetizing the new products, and that the Facebook-owned company was more focused on big campaigns like the ones analyzed here.

Unfortunately, focusing on an ad model of this kind locks Instagram in to an endless quest to suck in more time-on-site. The more photos and videos you look at, the more ads you’ll see, and the more money it makes. That contrasts with products like Google that center around getting you the information you want as quickly as possible, and therefore aren’t incentivized to be distracting blackholes of attention.

Here are the full details of the results from Instagram’s first four completed ad campaigns

*   Reach
*   All four initial ad campaigns measured were successful at delivering the broad reach our advertisers were seeking
*   The marketers achieved a high impact with a very low average frequency of ad impressions per user
*   Levi’s reached 7.4 million people in the U.S. across a nine-day period, targeting people aged 18-34
*   Ben & Jerry’s reached 9.8 million people in the U.S. over eight days, targeting people aged 18-35
*   Ad Recall
*   Across the four campaigns, there was a 32-point incremental lift in ad recall per campaign for people who were repeatedly exposed to a particular campaign versus control groups
*   Awareness
*   Across the four campaigns, there was a ten-point incremental lift in brand message awareness per campaign for people who were repeatedly exposed to a particular campaign versus control groups
*   In particular, 17 percent of people who saw a single ad for Ben & Jerry’s Scotchy Scotch Scotch-flavored ice cream not only became aware of the new flavor, they also associated it with the brand

Screenshot 2013-12-19 at 9.15.28 AM