Advertisers report that demand has led Instagram to run more News Feed ads for the users who previously engaged with the ads. According to one Instagram user, her feed had 22% ads out of the 45 posts she looked up. In her stories, 23% of the posts were ads.
Another Instagram and Facebook ads consultant, Peter Stringer, reported seeing an uptick in the volume of ads on Instagram since the beginning of the year.
Ad load varies by user engagement
‘Currently, I see an ad after three organic posts on the feed,’ said Stringer, talking about Instagram. Stringer believes that the work he does as a consultant has influenced this trend. ‘I click on many ads when reviewing landing pages which probably signals to toe company that I am an engaged shopper or clicker.’
Asked about the case, Instagram’s spokesperson echoed the assumptions made by Stringer.
‘We value ad experience,’ said the spokesperson, ‘ad load changes depending on the way people use the platform. We monitor their thoughts both for the ads and for general commerciality.’
Facebook’s documentation clarifies that they serve ads based on the way the user engages on different platforms, and not just on Instagram.
You see ads based on your activity across Facebook products like:
- The pages you like
- Information on your Instagram and Facebook profile
- Places you check on the apps
Generally, the more you engage with brands or ads on Facebook, the more likely you are to interact with more ads. However, this appears not just to be limited to people who click on ads.
Data by agencies shows a general increase
According to a social media strategist at Portent, Josh Thomson, his agency has seen a slow rise in the ad load for Instagram News Feed placements. The trend can also be observed on Messenger and Stories.
‘We think the increase in ad volumes is influenced by a high number of advertisers on Facebook products,’ said Thomson.
Andrew Foxwell, the co-founder of Foxwell Digital, reported that his agency noticed an increase in ads on Instagram after the outage on the platform in March.
The more the advertisers, the more the need for ad inventory
Stringer agrees with Thomson that the increase in ad loads was a result of increased ad spend on Instagram and the consequent need to increase inventory.
Stringer says that the trend is truer for retargeting campaigns by DTC and e-commerce brands which need to be seen by their audiences several times before they can win them over.
‘There is a lot of talk about rising CPCs and CPMs across Facebook ads. The company can address this issue only by finding more inventory to sell,’ said Stringer. ‘Retargeting campaigns generally get higher CPM than conversion campaigns and cold traffic. Ultimately though, the cost you get as the customer, the sale and the eventual return on an ad will vary in the short term and over the lifetime value of that customer.’
Thomson noted that more advertisers mean more competition during auctions.
‘Before, there might have been up to ten advertisers in an auction. Now there are over 20 of them vying to show their units to one user,’ said Thomson.
Thomson also notes how Facebook reports data. The platform now has seven million active advertisers, which is a significant increase from the numbers two years ago.
‘The more the advertisers, the more their contribution to the increase in ad load even though new placements are introduced to the platform,’ said Thomson.
How marketers are affected
According to Foxwell, there has not been much of an impact to marketers. Users hide ads they do not like in their News Feed, but that has not affected performance much on Instagram depending on the vertical and the country.
‘The experience of the user of the Instagram News Feed will have to keep evolving to match the needs of the advertiser and the user,’ said Foxwell, ‘Changing campaign strategies has not been a response to this competition, but the overall competition. We have been testing cost cap bidding, campaign budget optimization and dynamic creatives to respond to increasing prices.’
Why does it matter?
The increase in ad loads for Instagram makes it hard for advertisers to do their job. The stream is already cluttered. How many ads will be too much before it hurts user engagement or before users opt out of seeing content from brands? As it is, advertisers are seeing CACs go up, and they are adjusting their tactics to maintain the efficiency of their campaigns.
‘When CACs increase, you have to customize assets to win. You do this by ensuring that the placement is efficient and considering the ad set level,’ said Foxwell. ‘Carousels and collection do well on Instagram because the advertiser can place many products under one unit.’