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Jim SquiresDirector of Market OperationsInstagram
Instagram plans to open up its platform to all advertisers this fall. Jim Squires, director of market operations at Instagram, spoke with eMarketer’s Debra Aho Williamson about how advertisers will be able to use Facebook data for targeting and how the ad buying process will change on Instagram.
eMarketer: Instagram is rolling out a lot of new ad products in a very short time, including direct-response ads, the ability to buy ads via an API (application programming interface), as well as enhanced targeting. Why so much at once?
Jim Squires: We’ve spent the last 18 months establishing the platform for large brands. The next logical step is to empower businesses of all sizes. Being able to target narrower segments and achieve different types of objectives is essential. We want to offer a complete solution that allows businesses to purchase through self-serve interfaces and achieve the objectives they want to achieve.
We’re testing the action-oriented formats and buying through the API now, and we will be doing that through the summer with select partners and clients. Then we’ll be opening up globally and to all advertisers in the early fall timeframe.
eMarketer: How will the look and feel of the ads change?
Squires: We currently offer video, photo and carousel ad formats. Those have been successful, and they will not change. In addition, we will be enabling people to take action directly from an ad to sign up on a website or buy a product or download an app. This completes the customer journey—from being inspired by an image, to learning more and seeing different angles of that view, to taking an action.
eMarketer: The idea of direct response seems to be a big change for the Instagram community. How will it fit in?
Squires: One of the most requested features, both from users and from advertisers, is that once you’re inspired you want to learn more and take an action. That’s where direct-response advertising is evolving.
eMarketer: Instagram has managed to keep the creative bar high for advertising. How are you going to maintain that going forward?
Squires: We will have guidelines and policies. Facebook also has guidelines and policies. Those will continue on. There also will be algorithmic approaches to ensuring a high-quality experience for individuals. Signals such as negative feedback rates, ad engagement rates and comments on those ads are fed back into the system. All of our models will get trained to deliver relevant and interesting types of creative (content).
eMarketer: How will Instagram and its advertisers benefit from its ties to Facebook?
Squires: Currently, the targeting that’s available is broad—it’s gender, age and geography. As part of the expansion to allow all advertisers to run ads on the platform, we will also be introducing new targeting functionality that will mirror what’s also available on the Facebook side. One of the products is Custom Audiences, where the advertiser is bringing their own information to the table and might commingle it with information from the Facebook and Instagram platforms.
eMarketer: What should advertisers know about how the Instagram audience is different from the Facebook audience?
Squires: There are three things that make the platform unique. The first is community. There’s a very distinct sense of community that continues to get stronger as the years have gone by. Second is the fact that it is a completely visual medium. It’s imagery, photos and video vs. other platforms where there is text content and a variety of other formats. The third thing that we talk about a lot is creative context. The creative tools, like filters and image tools that are available, have driven people to do interesting, aesthetically pleasing things inside the environment.
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