Pinterest Play? Instagram Takes Steps Towards Shoppable Ads

Instagram waded into the shoppable ads arena when it trialled its version of the popular ‘buy now’ button with twenty US brands. The social photo sharing platform has taken steps to close the gap between browsing and shopping by allowing users to learn more about products from within their app, and then purchase them seamlessly. If this sounds eerily like Pinterest, you may be onto something.

Instagram recently ran afoul of Snapchat when it was accused of copying Snapchat Stories with its Instagram Stories.  After several failed attempts to purchase the platform, Mark Zuckerberg did the next best thing, copied Snapchat’s most coveted feature, Stories, on Facebook-owned Instagram as Instagram Stories.

Instagram is ready to play copycat again with its venture into Shoppable Ads. It set about testing posts with select brands in the US to allow users to learn more about the products they see before buying them. Instagram presents the user with a ‘tap to view’ icon at the bottom left of each photo which expands tags for up to five products. The tags contain the details and cost of the items but don’t immediately appear, users must hover over the ‘tap to view’ indicator to see a featured item. Users can then scroll through the products shown and decide to purchase from within the app.

Pinterest has had this feature for some time, and has seen remarkable results. 75% of its users have purchased something on the platform or because of it.  Pinterest users stay on the platform for approximately fifteen minutes per visit, giving marketers plenty of time to deliver ads to them. The demographic for Pinterest and Instagram used to vary widely, with Instagram being the platform predominantly for Gen Z and younger Millennials, and Pinterest skewing predominantly towards women in their late 20s to early 40s. Recently, Pinterest has seen a spike in Millennial use, with 67% of its users falling into that category.  Instagram is eager to cash-in on this potential new source of revenue and is now strongly courting brands to use its platform to reach their younger demographic. Add to this, the eventuality of a ‘save for later’ button, and Instagram fully moves into Pinterest’s territory as a save and shop platform.

This latest development is aimed at Instagram’s discovery audience, i.e., those who use the platform to look for the latest items but aren’t sure what they want just yet. Much like Pinterest, it enables retailers to capture users as they are information gathering and turn them from inspired browsers to buyers.

Why is this development important?

  • It cuts out a step/barrier to purchase. Users don’t need to leave the app and open a separate search window to find out more about the products they like. They can navigate and get all the pertinent information they need all within Instagram’s platform.
  • The consumer can then hit ‘shop now’ from within the tags and be taken directly to complete their purchase on the retailer’s website.
  • It solves the problem of inserting unwieldy captions to redirect users to click on links to circumvent Instagram’s ban on organic links within posts.
  • Shoppable ads have the potential to steal revenue from online shopping giant, Amazon, as users are heading onto sites like Pinterest and Instagram to discover new products and get alternative shopping ideas.
  • Most mobile use is spent in-app. Instagram has the highest rate of mobile use among social networks in the US. Given that Instagram is primarily mobile-focused, making products shoppable is a vital step for the social media platform and for brands that have a significant following on it.

Twenty popular US retailers have joined the endeavour, predominantly up-market brands such as Michael Kors, Kate Spade New York, Coach, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Hollister. The tags will be initially rolled out to iOS users in the US, but there are definite plans in the works to expand globally. Currently, this is a free service to post to your followers but Instagram plans to monetise the shoppable format by allowing brands to advertise to relevant target groups outside of their followers.

While advertisers have seen success using Instagram ads, only time will tell how users will react to yet another form of advertising. If it does not alienate its original base of photography enthusiasts, it has the potential drive significant ROI from Instagram.

Facebook Ad Blocking: What You Need to Know

Facebook recently announced that it will be blocking ad blockers on desktop. This move has advertisers and privacy advocates buzzing, and has reignited the heated debate around ad blocking that’s been raging since autumn when Apple introduced mobile ad blockers.


Facebook has become an advertising tour-de-force, and has a lot at stake here with thousands of advertisers flocking to its platform to promote their brands to Facebook’s 1.7 million users. By preventing ad blocking on desktop, Facebook protects its advertisers by ensuring their ads are seen, and ultimately, protects its bottom line.


Facebook Ad Blocking currently only affects desktop, but this doesn’t preclude the social platform from moving to mobile in the near future. According to a recent article in The New Yorker, Facebook may also be looking at Apple’s closed eco-system as one they’d likely adopt. Apple’s mobile platform is not built on web-based sites but on closed system apps. Apple’s mobile blockers only block web-based ads, but cannot block any ads served within an app. By doing this, Apple is trying to push advertisers towards the safety of its unblockable closed-app platform, and away from blockable web-based advertising. Facebook hopes to achieve similar results by making its platform unblockable. This offers advertisers some assurance than their ads will be served and seen on Facebook’s platform.


Facebook Ad blocking was officially released across desktop on August 9th, 2016.

What Does This Mean for Advertisers?

This is an advancement that will make advertisers rejoice. Facebook is offering a safe space where advertising is protected and will continue to reach the user. Advertisers don’t have the same worry they do with other advertising channels about their ability to reach their audience with their ads, and the harm it is doing to their bottom line. If you are an advertiser who has seen a decrease in impressions within the last year from programmatic display activity, Facebook desktop is definitely an area to start putting more ad spend.

What Does This Mean for Users?

Ad Block Plus has already discovered a work around, but it looks like it will be only a matter of time before Facebook circumvents it. The ad blocking wars are raging, with each side trying to outwit the other in a race to protect, (in Facebook’s case), advertiser interests, (in Ad Block Plus’ case) and user interests. Once Facebook finds the next solution to working around Ad Block Plus’ current block patch, users will be forced back to manage ads by updating their advertising preferences.