In 2012, when I first heard that Facebook had purchased Instagram, my favorite photo-sharing application, for about $1 billion in cash and stock, I jumped to the conclusion that just like Facebook, my Instagram newsfeed would also be cluttered with unwanted sponsored ads from various brands now. However, I was pleased to observe that nothing of that sort happened with my newsfeed. Although, Facebook did continue to benefit financially without any ads on Instagram by letting brands, who were using Instagram as part of their content strategy, create videos on it, sharing them on their Facebook pages and then boosting them so that they would appear in the users’ newsfeed. Ads on Instagram Instagram remained ad-free for the most part of 2012 but later in 2013, some of my friends living in the United States started mentioning seeing occasional ads in their Instagram feeds. As it turned out, in order to build itself into a sustainable business, Instagram had introduced ads in United States: a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that were already great members of the Instagram community. In 2013, I was working for a fashion brand who had a presence on Instagram and always wanted to include links to their product pages on the website but was always left frustrated because Instagram wouldn’t allow brands to add any hyperlinks to their images or videos. However, as of 4th March 2015, Instagram took a big step forward as a marketing tool, giving advertisers the ability to link out from Instagram posts for the first time. A new ad format In a recent blogpost titled “A new way for brands to tell their stories on Instagram” Instagram introduced a new ad format – Clickable Carousel ads, a new way for brands to share more images with people interested in their posts with new Tinder-like functionality, though here you swipe left instead of right if you like what you see. This feature allows users to view multiple photos from a brand by swiping left within the mobile app. It will give brands “more flexibility in telling sequenced stories in beautiful, compelling ways that lead to meaningful results for their businesses” (Instagram, 2015). The ad format will contain elusive links, which open up an in-app browser – sans URL bar. This means that brands who advertise on Instagram will finally get to direct their followers to a landing page. Instagram considers that the new ad format would “bring the potential of multi-page print campaigns to mobile phones – with the added benefit of taking people to a website to learn more. For instance, a fashion company could use the carousel to deconstruct the individual products in a ‘look.’ A car company might share an array of different features of a vehicle and provide a link to learn more about the new model. Or, an advertiser could showcase how multiple ingredients come together to make a delicious meal” (Instagram, 2015). Here is a look at how it works: Currently, only a limited set of advertising partners in the United States (not organic users) have been given access to this ad format. Gregarious Narain, CTO of Chute, weighed in on the announcement: “As of now, there are no public plans to expand the feature to the full Instagram user base. The optimist in me is hopeful that slowly Instagram will expand these features, but the realist in me acknowledges that even if they do expand, it’s going to be slowly. As we all learned from the#Instapurge of 2014, maintaining the authenticity of the Instagram community is one of the platform’s top concerns. I would guess that they’re looking into ways to first combat any sort of spam linking before rolling the feature out to its 300 million users”. In the blog post users were told that they would be seeing different variations of this ad format from limited brands in the coming few weeks as Instagram experiments with the format and refines it based on what people are most interested in and what performs best. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to experience these ads on my own until they are rolled out to brands in Saudi Arabia but it would be very interesting to see how they perform for brands who have been given this early access.