I will make this very short, but brands are making a very simple and yet completely idiotic mistake on Instagram, which both annoys and angers people.
The problem is that brands, in general, are not really thinking about how they are doing advertising online. Instead, they are dumping ads on whatever platform they think can give them the best reach. This strategy (or lack thereof) doesn't work, and all it really does is to waste people's time, as well as advertising budgets.
But there is a very simple way to fix this; let me show you how.
First, let me show you a selection of posts that came up in my stream as I was browsing through it last week (when I took these screenshots):
As you can see, these are all wonderful posts by amazing people, publishers and companies who I consider to be worth following. I really love Instagram. It's a constant source of amazingness.
But now let me show you the ads that also came up:
What the actual frak?
These have nothing in common with the splendor of the people I follow. They have zero creativity. They have no passion, no purpose, no personal connection, no nothing. In fact, they are designed exactly the same way as the ads that we hate the most. They are designed to be 'banner ads'.
Why, brands, are you doing this? Why are you advertising in a place like Instagram with ads that look like they should have been posted on some cheap shopping site that nobody cares about?
Just look at how they look in between the real posts.
Note: The ad says "cheap car insurance".
Okay, granted, the ad kind of sticks out from the rest, which might mean people will notice it more. But the emotion of being interrupted with something this crappy makes people angry and annoyed.
This is stupid advertising. And it's because of ads like these that we have seen this very destructive decline in how people think about advertising.
So, do you want to see how to do it right? I have actually already shown you.
You see, in the first picture I had included one post which was actually an ad. Here it is:
Yes, this is an ad for Visit Norway, and it's great because it's just as good as the rest of the amazing people I follow. In fact, Visit Norway is so great that you might want to follow them to see all their other wonderful photos.
It's such a big difference.
Most of the ads on Instagram are made by companies who have no interest whatsoever in Instagram as a platform or the people on it. They just post their interruptive banner ads to get a bit of cheap exposure... and we hate them for it.
But the brands who advertise on Instagram as an extension of their Instagram presence add to the experience rather than take something away from it.
And this is true for all platforms.
Look at advertising in a print magazine. In print we used to know how to do that really well and in a way that people loved. Here is one example from a magazine. Half of these pages are ads, but you are not annoyed by them because they carry the same value as the rest of the magazine.
Here is the same magazine, but this time online:
Seriously? Why are you doing this, brands? Why are you wasting my time? Why are you destroying the beauty of my world? Why are you interrupting me with pointless crap when you could be delighting or inspiring me?
So, I have one very simple message for all you brands out there: Stop wasting your money and people's time.
We know from all the studies and reports that the effectiveness of advertising is in decline. We know that ad rates (and the value of an ad) are dropping because of it. We know that almost all ads online produce zero or even negative ROI. We know that people are seriously upset about how things are today, and we know that this has caused a scary and hugely damaging rise in ad blockers.
So, why are you still doing it the wrong way? Why are you just dumping pointless ads on the digital channels?
Start caring about advertising. Start caring about your customers. Start caring about where it is that you are reaching your audience.
But wait-a-minute, you say. Some brands don't have an Instagram presence to link to, nor is it really relevant to have one. For instance, the ad for car insurance above doesn't have an Instagram account that is worth following. So how, you ask, can they make the ads work?
The answer is that they can't, so they should stop trying. No, really. I'm completely serious here.
Remember what I said. We know that most digital advertising campaigns are producing negative ROI. That's a known. So, why are you spending your advertising budgets on a channel where you know your message won't resonate with the audience?
It doesn't matter that Instagram is a huge channel and has millions of users. That's completely irrelevant if your ad doesn't fit that channel.
If you are car insurance, you should only advertise on channels that you know are relevant to your message. For instance, it's highly relevant to advertise on Google Search when people search for car insurance, buying or repairing a car, or similar. Or you could advertise on on car sites or blogs.
But you should not advertise on Instagram with something that looks like a boring banner ad. That's just a complete waste of your marketing budget.
So, please, brands. Stop advertising on channels and with messages that everyone knows won't work. It benefits none of us.
Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter
"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé