Instagram's Carousel Ads

On March 3, Instagram rolled out a new ad format called Carousel Ads, which allow marketers to present multiple images in one scrolling ad-unit, giving users an opportunity to click through to a website and learn more about what they’ve seen. These ads encourage audience engagement and it’s a big change for Instagram: it’s the first format to allow the user to click-through to an off-site experience.  It fundamentally changes the way marketers should approach Instagram when strategizing for their brand.

Instagram has always been a simple, beautiful and easily accessible platform, and this accessibility has driven the platform’s impressive growth.  Prior to Carousel Ads, the platform only offered single video or single picture ad formats, which made it difficult for marketers to tell stories, drive and measure engagement – video & picture formats only allow users to activate audio, comment or favorite posts that resonate with them.

The new Carousel unit contains an image series, which the user can sequentially view by swiping left. Once the user views all available images, they’re encouraged to ‘Learn More’ about what they’ve seen via a button that appears below the carousel. Brands can now share sequenced photo-stories and then drive users who’ve indicated interest in this story to a website to learn more about their brand or product.  Similar to the single video and image ad formats, this new format will be priced on a CPM model with high monthly minimums.

Marketers must carefully plan around powerful content if they’re to successfully inspire the user to take this journey. However, if the campaign is properly executed, these ads can generate brand affinity and familiarity via the ad-unit and then through the brand’s website. If the campaign goal is to drive brand familiarity and consideration, marketers should begin considering Instagram.

While the ad-format’s small-scale rollout makes gleaning specifics about measurements difficult, the mere presence of the “Learn More” button is a game-changer for performance measurement. Marketers can now move beyond impression, click, like and reply analysis to gauge an ad’s effectiveness and look to link clicks to quantify to what degree the ad generated meaningful connections with its audience.

Instagram is a platform that users and brands inspire emotional reactions and create connections with others via their own photos and videos. The new Carousel Ads offer an opportunity to establish that connection and then complete it with a unique web experience. If a brand seeks to increase familiarity and drive intent, Instagram’s new carousel ads should be considered alongside a high-impact content development plan.