Instagram ads - Price costs, the basics and the future

| 19 Apr, 2016

Instagram ads are a great avenue for brands to reach their target audiences. Still a relatively unsaturated market, the image-centric platform provides brands the opportunity to engage in masterful storytelling.

As an agency, we are looking to transition more clients into the space while it is still ramping up to the same level as Facebook or Twitter. Earlier this year, Bitly and AdRoll co-hosted the webinar, Instagram Marketing in 2016: Organic, Paid, and Partnered.‰ I attended the webinar with the intention of learning more about the advertising platform from a holistic perspective.

The webinar itself was very informative and provided me insight beyond the paid advertising portion I was currently familiar with and utilising amongst my clients.

It was also the perfect chance to gain expert knowledge to share with the Jellyfish team, through some of the top names in the industry.

Little did I realise, the attendance in the webinar would spawn into something much greater; the opportunity to speak with both webinar hosts, Bitly‰'s Community Manager Erica Moss and Prachi Mishra, a Product Marketing Manager at AdRoll, to get their individual insight into the Instagram advertising platform, both today and in the future.

The basics

How much do Instagram ads cost?

Both Erica and Prachi were in agreement that Instagram ad prices are comparable to Facebook.

The pricing model consistency with Facebook makes sense, due to the fact that Instagram ads are run through the Facebook platform.

How do Instagram ads work, specifically their targeting, limitations and opportunities?

Prachi spoke on the two primary uses of Instagram ads: prospecting (finding new customers) and retargeting (finding users who have already been to your site).

Again, since Instagram is run within the Facebook platform, the targeting options (age, location, etc.) are all available for use on Instagram as well.

Another major benefit that comes with Instagram ads is the ability to drive traffic directly from the photo feed to an advertiser‰'s site.

With organic posts, advertisers can only acquire traffic from a single link in their profile, but not from the captions of their posts. With ads, however, each photo and CTA button will direct users to your desired destination URL within the Instagram browser, providing users a seamless way to drive traffic.


While Instagram‰'s user base is smaller than Facebook‰'s, the unique value to Instagram comes from its user base being mobile; globally, 75% of users live outside of the US and Canada and are primarily millennial.

Erica believes that one of the greatest opportunities with Instagram is its native capabilities; when users are scrolling through beautiful images those images may, in fact, be a sponsored post, rather than user-generated content. The user-base of Instagram is also very engaged.

Are Instagram ads ‰tappable‰?

When Instagram ads are accessed through mobile, the ads are not clickable, they are ‰tappable.‰

Both hosts provided the same thoughts: the CTA (call-to-action) button is ‰tappable‰ and directs the user to what you (the advertiser) want them to do.

Prachi was able to provide further insight into the effects of tapping different areas of an Instagram post, ‰The CTA button will take the user to the destination URL, while a singular tap on the image itself lets the user know they are being redirected to another website.‰

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Are there any free trials available for new business?

It doesn‰Ûªt look like there are free trials available at this time, but both hosts agree - get on the ad platform and test it out.

Do you have any examples of success or any specific verticals you find success with?

Erica explained the top industries right now are luxury brands, but right behind the luxury brands are quick -service and fast-casual restaurants.

In addition, Prachi has seen success from marketers in travel, education, and politics that are curating the experience with the user.

Both mentioned the importance of creative that resonates with the target audience, keeping all ads branded, and providing users inspiration with aspirational posts.

Are video and photo carousels available?

Instagram is beginning to allow advertisers to pick five videos or photos (or a combination of both) for users to swipe through. The new format is an extension of the photo carousel ad feature that was unveiled in March of 2015. The new feature allows brands greater creative flexibility to tell richer stories through the app.

The launch partners utilising video within the carousel ad format include Taco Bell, Airbnb, Hollister, W Hotels and IBM.


The Future

Where do you see Instagram ads going?

Prachi‰'s thoughts said it all.

‰ÛÏInstagram is going onwards and upwards. This is just the beginning of Facebook pouring resources into helping marketers connect with this audience. On the flip side, marketers have been quick to adopt this new inventory source and learn how to make it work for their objectives.‰

Erica spoke about Instagram having more and more ads, with brands needing to ‰pay to play.‰

Together, their outlook is simple. Instagram advertising is up-and-coming. It is becoming prevalent, and Facebook is making the advertising experience much easier. Get in while you can!

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Additional thoughts

Erica: Instagram should be very appealing to advertisers for a variety of reasons, especially because of the opportunity to be an early adopter of the platform."

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Prachi: Instagram might seem daunting for non-retail advertisers, but if they can hone in on the value that their product/service brings their customers and start thinking a little creatively, I think they‰'ll come to see that Instagram is a great way to reach new users.‰

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Jellyfish insight

Do you believe Instagram is a brand awareness or direct response - driven platform?

PPC Manager, Ross Mitchell, sees Instagram as primarily a brand awareness channel, similarly to most social channels. He believes, though, the platform is a huge step in driving users and website visits for future engagement and conversions.

Social and Outreach Manager, Maria Bain, agrees with Ross on the potential of brand awareness but recognizes that Instagram ads now support the conversion objective.

‰Personally, I believe the channel can be used for both objectives, as long as the brand itself has the opportunity to be successful on the platform. In fact, I suggest trying a few campaigns with different objectives to determine what is best for you and your clients.

Where do Jellyfish employees see Instagram ads headed?

Maria believes that Instagram will grow as an exploratory platform, where people can express who they are and find what excites them.

On the other hand, Ross sees the potential for Instagram homepage takeovers and fixed ads on the timeline, but more importantly, and similarly to both Erica and Prachi, he sees Instagram becoming more sophisticated, like Facebook.

Since the release of the Instagram algorithm timeline update, PPC Manager, Laura Mittelmann, sees the potential need for brands to pay more in order to be seen.

For now, my recommendation is to get your brands on the platform and gather some baseline data. Like Prachi and Erica reminded me throughout our conversations, Instagram is new and the competition is small. Now is the time to make your move!



A special thanks to Erica Moss and Prachi Mishra for their time and contributions towards this post.

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