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Instagram’s Removed In-Stream Video Ad Placements from its Advertising Options

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Instagram's Removed In-Stream Video Ad Placements from its Advertising Options


Instagram’s taken another small step towards its next evolution, with ad partners now being informed that in-stream video ad placement is no longer available as an option in the app.

As you can see in this notification, posted by @Jaketheadnerd on Twitter, Meta is letting advertisers know that they can no longer use Instagram in-stream spots, but that they can use Reels placement as an alternative for video ads on IG.

Of course, Instagram also retired the IGTV brand back in October, when it announced the broader merger of its video offerings, so it probably comes as no big surprise to see in-stream video placement also fade out. But the announcement is important, because by moving Instagram away from disruptive, in-playback ads, that then further aligns all of its video offerings into a more consolidated, scrollable stream.

Which is likely a precursor to this:

As you can see in this example, shared by app researcher Alessando Paluzzi, Instagram’s currently testing a new, full-screen feed format, which would incorporate static posts, videos, Stories and Reels into a singular content stream. When a Story appears as you scroll, it would be delineated by the frame indicators along the bottom of the UI, while video posts would play as you swipe by, much like TikTok’s presentation style.

The concept aligns with Instagram chief Adam Mosseri’s statement back in December, in which he noted that a key focus for the platform in 2022 would be the consolidation of its elements.

“We’re going to double-down on our focus on video and consolidate all of our video formats around Reels”

Reels is Meta’s fastest growing content format, and with TikTok essentially changing the game on consumption habits, Instagram’s now working to catch up, and this new, integrated feed format would definitely bring it more into line with modern user behaviors.

Which then brings us back to video ads, and the removal of in-stream placement. Instagram still has various video upload options available, even without IGTV, with users able to upload video clips up to an hour long through the post composer. But I suspect, at some stage, Instagram will look to reduce that, in order to bring all of its content more into line, and make its feed more attuned to the TikTok/Reels format.

Within that, in-stream placement will no longer be a viable option, and it could be that Instagram’s removing the option now in order to prepare for the next change, as it then won’t have advertisers relying on this option anymore.

Which also raises a question about monetization, and how Instagram creators will make as much money from their efforts if they don’t have directly attributable ads in their video clips.

Instagram already has its Creator Bonus program for Reels clips (though payment amounts are reportedly declining rapidly of late), while it’s also been encouraging creators to look to alternative funding avenues, like branded content partnerships, IG Live badges, Subscriptions and merchandise promotions.

The latter could soon become a much bigger focus – last month, Instagram announced that it would now enable all users to tag products in their IG posts, starting with users in the US.

Instagram product tags

Eventually, Instagram could create a direct affiliate stream for such links, which would enable all users to tag products, and then get paid for any purchase activity that their posts generate.

That would be a more sustainable model than propping up creators through direct funding, and with Meta looking to integrate more eCommerce processes across all of its apps, it could also link into that broader push, giving more creators more reason to tag products, which could ideally help to shift user behaviors by exposing them to more purchase links in more posts.

On another front, that could also blunt TikTok’s move into the same.

Following the lead of its Chinese variant ‘Douyin’, TikTok’s working to add in more commerce elements, with a view to helping creators earn more money from their in-app efforts.

Douyin commerce

Commerce has become Douyin’s biggest revenue stream, and it seems likely that TikTok will move in the same direction – but if Instagram can get their first, with more inclusive, accessible shopping options, both for users and creators alike, that could be another way for IG to fend off rising competition from the short-form video app.

It seems to be all part of the bigger Instagram shift, aligning everything around the Reels/TikTok format and adding in more options for creators to make money from their content.

As such, the removal of in-stream ads makes sense, and it may be the first step towards a new set of monetization options in an expanded Instagram commerce push.





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Cheeky branding wins (and missteps)

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Cheeky branding wins (and missteps)

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Branding and rebranding is getting more fun, here we look at some of cheekiest brands that have caught our eye – for the right and wrong reasons.



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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

Over the past year, Google has repeatedly noted that a China-based group has been looking to use YouTube, in particular, to influence western audiences, by building various channels in the app, then seeding them with pro-China content.

There’s limited info available on the full origins or intentions of the group, but today, Google has published a new overview of its ongoing efforts to combat the initiative, called DRAGONBRIDGE.

As explained by Google:

In 2022, Google disrupted over 50,000 instances of DRAGONBRIDGE activity across YouTube, Blogger, and AdSense, reflecting our continued focus on this actor and success in scaling our detection efforts across Google products. We have terminated over 100,000 DRAGONBRIDGE accounts in the IO network’s lifetime.

As you can see in this chart, DRAGONBRIDGE is by far the most prolific source of coordinated information operations that Google has detected over the past year, while Google also notes that it’s been able to disrupt most of the project’s attempted influence, by snuffing out its content before it gets seen.

Dragonbridge

Worth noting the scale too – as Google notes, DRAGONBRIDGE has created more than 100,000 accounts, which includes tens of thousands of YouTube channels. Not individual videos, entire channels in the app, which is a huge amount of work, and content, that this group is producing.

That can’t be cheap, or easy to keep running. So they must be doing it for a reason.

The broader implication, which has been noted by various other publications and analysts, is that DRAGONBRIDGE is potentially being supported by the Chinese Government, as part of a broader effort to influence foreign policy approaches via social media apps. 

Which, at this kind of scale, is a concern, while DRAGONBRIDGE has also targeted Facebook och Twitter as well, at different times, and it could be that their efforts on those platforms are also reaching similar activity levels, and may not have been detected as yet.

Which then also relates to TikTok, a Chinese-owned app that now has massive influence over younger audiences in western nations. If programs like this are already in effect, it stands to reason that TikTok is also likely a key candidate for boosting the same, which remains a key concern among regulators and officials in many nations.

The US Government is reportedly weighing a full TikTok ban, and if that happens, you can bet that many other nations will follow suit. Many government organizations are also banning TikTok on official devices, based on advice from security experts, and with programs like DRAGONBRIDGE also running, it does seem like Chinese-based groups are actively operating influence and manipulation programs in foreign nations.

Which seems like a significant issue, and while Google is seemingly catching most of these channels before they have an impact, it also seems likely that this is only one element of a larger push.

Hopefully, through collective action, the impact of such can be limited – but for TikTok, which still reports to Chinese ownership, it’s another element that could raise further questions and scrutiny.

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The Drum | Trump’s Instagram & Facebook Reinstatement Won’t Cause Marketers To Riot Yet, Experts Say

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The Drum | Trump's Instagram & Facebook Reinstatement Won’t Cause Marketers To Riot Yet, Experts Say

While the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s Twitter account in November had some advertisers packing up in protest, many will strike a different tune with Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram, experts predict.

Meta Wednesday announced that it’s lifting the ban on a handful of Facebook and Instagram accounts, including that of former US president Donald Trump – who was suspended nearly two years ago following the January 6, 2021 riots at the Capitol.

In a blog post yesterday, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, explained the reasons for the company’s decision, saying that it “evaluated the current environment” as it pertains to the socio-political landscape and security concerns and determined that “risk has sufficiently receded.” As a result, the company will welcome Trump back onto Facebook and Instagram.

The former president will be expected to comply with Meta’s user policies, but, considering his past violations, will face “heightened penalties for repeat offenses,” Clegg explained.

While it’s unclear whether Trump will become an active user on either platform following the decision, media and marketing experts are already sounding alarm bells at his potential return.

In particular, experts are cautious considering recent developments at Twitter. Elon Musk’s turbulent takeover – which has included mass layoffs, dramatic platform changes and the decision to reinstate the accounts of controversial figures like Trump and Kanye West (whose account has since been re-suspended) – has led to an exodus of advertisers. Could Meta’s decision to reintroduce Trump invite a similar fate?

‘Fear, frustration and protest’ could catalyze drawback

Concerns regarding brand safety and suitability on Facebook and Instagram are piquing among marketers. Trump’s presence on social media has long proven to exacerbate the spread of misinformation online. The risks of a potential recession, paired with new political tensions spurred by the 2022 midterms and the anticipation of the 2024 presidential election, may only up the ante.

“Misinformation on Meta’s platforms was an issue prior to Trump’s ban, during the ban and will likely continue to be an issue, even with the new [policies that] Meta has put in place,” says Laura Ries, group director of media and connections at IPG-owned ad agency R/GA. In light of this fact, Ries says, “Advertisers will need to continue to consider the type of content they’ll show up next to when evaluating whether or not to advertise on the platforms, especially as we march toward the 2024 election.”

She predicts that Meta may see some advertisers leave Facebook and Instagram “out of fear, frustration or protest.”

Others agree. “I suspect advertisers will not be pleased with this move and might make reductions in spend as they have done with Twitter,” says Tim Lim, a political strategist, PR consultant and partner at creative agency The Hooligans.

Although some advertisers are sure to pull back or cut their investments, the number will likely be low – largely because the scale and reach promised by both Facebook and Instagram will make it hard for most advertisers to quit. Smaller brands and startups in particular often rely heavily on Meta’s advertising business to spur growth, says Ries.

A ripple, not a wave

Most industry leaders believe Trump’s reinstatement won’t cause anything more than a ripple in the advertising industry. “Marketers who advertise on Facebook and Instagram care about their own problems, which generally [entail] selling more products and services,” says Joe Pulizzi, an entrepreneur, podcaster and author of various marketing books. “If Meta helps them do that, they don’t care one bit about brand safety – unless this blows up into a big political issue again. It might not, so marketers won’t do a thing.”

The sentiment is underscored by Dr Karen Freberg, a professor of strategic communications at University of Louisville, who says: “Facebook and Instagram are key fundamental platforms for advertisers. Marketers may … be aware of the news, but I am not sure if it will make a drastic change for the industry.” She points out that Twitter’s decision to lift the ban on Trump’s account in November caused such a big stir among marketers advertisers that Meta’s decision to do the same may come as less of a shock.

Trump’s return may even benefit Meta’s ads business by giving the company new opportunities to serve ads to Trump devotees, says Pulizzi. Ultimately, he says, Meta “needs personalities like Trump,” who, whether through love or hate, inspire higher engagement. “With Facebook plateauing and Instagram now chasing – and copying – TikTok at every turn, Trump’s follower base is important to Meta, which is hard to believe, but I think it’s true.”

But while some users may be energized by the former president’s return to Meta platforms, others may be outraged – even to the point of quitting Facebook and Instagram, points out Ries. In this case, she says, “advertisers will need to follow them to TikTok, Snap or other platforms where they’re spending their newfound time.”

R/GA, for its part, which services major brands including Google, Samsung, Verizon and Slack, will work on “a client by client basis” to address concerns about Facebook, Instagram or any other platform, says Ries. “R/GA recommended pausing activity on Facebook and Instagram after the insurrection and won’t hesitate to do so again if another incident occurs.”

For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily US newsletter here.

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