Instagram Is Testing Mid-Roll Video Ad Pop-Ups In Stories

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Instagram is testing video ads inside Stories, the section of the app that was built to challenge Snapchat, according to multiple people briefed on the new ad format.

Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories Credit: Instagram

"Instagram is testing them now with select publishers and content creators," said one ad agency executive, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, Facebook sent a note to advertisers that they would start seeing the option to serve their ads into live and "formerly live" videos. "There are advertiser controls that you can use to exclude ad delivery within specific content," the memo said.

The Instagram tests are basically an extension of Facebook's ad experiments in live video, where it has been serving mid-roll ads into broadcasts. Facebook has been tinkering with these mid-roll video ads as a way to make money from streaming.

Publishers are being encouraged to invest in video on Facebook and Instagram, and they want to see a path to profitability for their efforts.

Stories were launched over the summer to give Instagram's 600 million users a chance to create in the same way they would on Snapchat.

People with big followings could create these stories, which are video clips that last for 24 hours and are given prominent positioning in the Instagram feed.

Most industry watchers have said Instagram Stories gave the most popular account holders a reason to stick with the platform rather than move to rival Snapchat, which had been capturing younger users and seen as innovating in social media.

Internally, Instagram was debating whether mid-roll ads or sponsored stories were the best way to go. Sponsored Stories would just sit in the library of stories people see and be labeled as ads for people to click. It's unclear if Instagram will test those too at some point.

The mid-roll video units pop up inside organic stories. All platforms are experimenting with these types of video ads -- Twitter has pre-roll video ads and Snapchat serves video ads among its content.

"Facebook wants all that money that is coming from traditional advertising," said one social agency executive, who is familiar with the ad tests and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Instagram has an advantage over rivals because of all the data and targeting that it has developed piggybacking on Facebook's ad technology, the agency exec said.

On top of mid-roll video ads inside live and on Instagram, Facebook has acknowledged testing mid-roll ads in non-live videos from publishers and creators, just like they do on YouTube.

On Monday, Recode reported on these non-live video ads. Ad Age first reported on the tests last year.

One of the concerns of brands, however, has been that social video can be a chaotic place with little control over the setting. Last week, an alleged torture was live-streamed there.

Brands want to have some assurances over how and where their ads appear. To help them, Facebook has been making the publishers tag videos to categorize what's in them, and then lets brands opt out of participating, according to people familiar with the offering.

"We have said since day one that we expect to bring advertising and other business opportunities to Instagram Stories," an Instagram spokeswoman said by email. "I don't have anything new to share on that right now."

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On Wednesday, Instagram launched the new Stories ads and said it would not split revenue with creators. Also, Instagram will not offer the same tag system that Facebook Live uses to categorize the type of content in the videos and give brands control over where their ads appear. An earlier version of this incorrectly reported that it would.

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