Facebook has yet to allow ads on Instagram, its very own photo-sharing service, and this frustrated a lot of brands and celebrities alike. So what did they do? They took matters into their own hands and begun sponsoring their posts on the platform. Right from Unilever to Pepsi, marketers have come up with innovative methods to advertise without having to pay a single penny to Facebook for placing their ads.
A couple of months ago, a change in Instagram’s terms of service created an uproar among celebrities, photographers, bloggers and brands alike because it permitted the use of any images on its social platform without any restrictions. The biggest opposition came from Kim Kardashian (celebrity) and National Geographic (brand/company) who threatened to delete their accounts until and unless Instagram changed its terms of service, fearing that their photos would be used in advertising without their permissions. Within days of this uproar, Instagram modified its terms of service, clearing the air that they wouldn’t use people’s images for any sort of advertising without their prior permission.
And brands lost no time in tweaking Facebook’s no-ads platform into their very own advertising playground, without having to take any permission or give payment to the social network giant. Brands are coming up with new and innovative ways to market their products and services, most notably by teaming up with celebrities for sponsored posts. Take the example of Page 3 regular Nicole Richie who advertised a hair product made by Unilever’s Suave, to her 750,000+ followers. How did she do it? By simply posting a photo where she’s ‘using’ the product, accompanied by a post which read – “Ad: My new don’t-leave-home-without-it product? Moroccan Infusion Styling Oil from @SuaveBeauty! Check out ways to add brilliant shine to your style here: bit.ly/XDJOkp.” A Unilever representative confirmed that the deal was done because of its partnership with Ms. Richie, and not because of their association with any social networking platform.
Currently, Instagram is the best way for advertisers to present a way of advertising and interacting with a huge base of consumers completely free of cost. They can easily use these advertising methods as demos or skeletal frameworks for future ads. LeBron James advertised Nike to his 2.2 million followers by wearing Nike sneakers, along with a message – “These are simply the best!! Ultra comfy and can wear them with anything. I’m ordering 100 pairs right now. #kicks #Nike #family”. Beyonce Knowles, in association with Pepsi, posted a pop-art-style collage with a can of Pepsi in the fourth panel. And this was easily made available to her 3.2 million followers without a dime being spent on the marketing for that ad.
And of course, Kim Kardashian, who has the highest number of followers on Instagram at 7.7 million, advertised her own branded tanning lotion, and directed her followers to buy it at Ulta stores. The smartest thing about these promotional posts is that they do not mention these pictures are ads, because otherwise they would run into trouble with the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines.
Such acts raise important questions – How would ads on Instagram look like? Do these posts translate into sales for brands, or are consumers becoming too smart for their own good? And finally, when does Facebook plan on turning Instagram into a business?