Instagram today announced that it began running its first 60-second video ads, starting with T-Mobile and Warner Brothers. Until now, the maximum length for video ads was 30 seconds, already longer than the 15-second videos users are allowed to post.
Instagram tells me that “We recognize that advertisers have a variety of creative resources and want to bring more choice to help them reach their business goals.”
One of the first of these ads is T-Mobile’s extension of its 30-second Super Bowl commercial starring musician Drake. T-Mobile is now running a special, 60-second version with extra scenes on Instagram now. Warner Brothers will run a 60-second Instagram ad for its new film How To Be Single.
With 400 million active users, Facebook is finally getting serious about monetizing Instagram. In September, it began selling ads in 30 more countries, introduced Marquee ads that let brands own a moment with a huge ad blitz, and began offering 30-second video ads.
Essentially, Instagram wants to be able to absorb the shift in ad spend from television to digital. To do that, it can’t force advertisers into proprietary formats and lengths. Otherwise, the requirement to produce special ads just for Instagram could discourage them from running campaigns there. That was the logic behind allowing advertisers to post landscape format clips that are the same shape as the TV ads brands already shoot.
Each big mobile video provider is taking a slightly different approach to video ads.Facebook lets companies run video ads that are as long as they want, but only as full-fledged videos. YouTube has it’s skippable pre-rolls. Twitter lets brands sponsor the delivery of high-quality content from other publishers, like ads before sports highlights. Snapchat has short interstitial video ads in Discover as well as sponsored clips inserted into Live Stories.
All of them are trying to figure out how to maximize value for advertisers while minimizing the interruption to their users.
The Facebook version of the 60-second T-Mobile Instagram ad
Now the longer-form ads that businesses produce for featured TV spots or would normally put up on YouTube can also have a home on Instagram. The question will be whether the format feels agonizingly long in a feed filled with photos you only spend a second or two looking at and the occasional 15-second clip from friends.
Of course, users will just be able to scroll past if they get bored watching, meaning the first few seconds of an Instagram ad are still more important than a TV commercial that’s harder to skip. Instagram video ads are also often watched silently because people are browsing in public or where they can’t turn up the volume.
You can see that T-Mobile tried to make this ad as visually dynamic as possible despite just being some people talking to it would still be intriguing when watched without sound.
So while Instagram wants to make it easy for brands to reuse their pre-made ads, they might not be as effective as if they’re shot specifically with short attention spans and silence in mind. But flexibility for advertisers should still help.
Like its parent Facebook, Instagram is trying to ease people into the idea of ads. For years there were none. Then Instagram introduced simple photo ads with no links, then short 15-second video ads, then clickable photo ads, and then progressively increased the video ad length. Rather than shocking people by suddenly showing full-strength ads, Instagram hopes it can boil the cash out of us frogs by turning up the heat slowly.