Instagram says your identity is 'yours to make' in new brand campaign

First big push from Johannes Leonardo debuts after a Wall Street Journal report about Facebook's findings that its photo-sharing app was harmful to self-esteem of teen girls

Published On
Sep 23, 2021

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“Stay true to yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking.” A young woman delivers these lines in a new brand campaign from Instagram, Facebook's photo-sharing app.

It's the brand's first work from Johannes Leonardo, which Facebook hired in April to help develop Instagram's larger creative strategy and narrative.

The words are part of an anthem film, an ethereal montage of young people in a dreamy state of exploration. As they point their phone cameras at the world around them, they shine a light on curious vignettes of others at play, skateboarding, gazing into the mirror, eating cereal from a bathtub. The accompanying dialogue features the young users’ laughter mixed with conversations about what sparks their imaginations and where they see themselves in the future.

Though the message is playfully uplifting and empowering, the campaign, titled “Yours to Make,” arrives on the heels of last week’s Wall Street Journal report that Facebook’s own in-depth research found that Instagram was toxic to its young users, most notably with teen girls.

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“Picking out my outfit is what gets me out of bed,” says one person in the ad. “I’m really good at harmonizing with garbage disposals and stuff like that,” another giggles. "I want to be the current version of myself times ten," a young man dreams.

According to the Journal's investigation, a slide from a 2019 Facebook research presentation noted, “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.” Another, from 2020, said, “thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”

Facebook’s statement about the new campaign noted, “until now, so much of how identity has been defined on social media is in reaction to what other people are sharing. Instagram is challenging us all to flip the script and consider—what if your identity is yours to make? What if you could use the platform to empower you to evolve and shape who you are, rather than how others see you?"

The release also stated that “an incredible amount of research went into understanding our users and the ways they’re exploring identity and self-expression with their communities via IG. Shifts are happening faster than ever, and [“Yours to Make”] seeks to meet creators and users where they are, and build a space for where they’re going.”

Facebook did not make an executive available to discuss whether or not the new messaging was created in reaction to the data revealed in the Wall Street Journal report. Rather, a spokesperson referred Ad Age to a blog post addressing that story, written by Karina Newton, Instagram head of public policy.

The company asserted that the Journal's report “focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light” yet Facebook stands by its research. “It demonstrates our commitment to understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues,” Newton wrote.

Newton goes on to acknowledge both the positives and downsides of social platforms. “We’re proud that our app can give voice to those who have been marginalized, that it can help friends and families stay connected from all corners of the world, that it can prompt societal change; but we also know it can be a place where people have negative experiences, as the Journal called out today," she wrote. "Our job is to make sure people feel good about the experience they have on Instagram, and achieving that is something we care a great deal about.”

The new campaign underscores the positive, highlighting the freedom and agency it affords its young users to express and find themselves. When it tapped Johannes Leonardo, the brand noted it would be working in close collaboration with the agency in an effort "to connect directly with culture and help push it forward, by elevating the communities and creators that are making it happen,” a Facebook spokesman told Ad Age.

“More than any generation before them, young adults today are seeking to discover who they can be, but they feel pressure to have it all figured out,” Melissa Waters, Instagram VP-marketing, said in a statement. “‘Yours to Make’ is all about centering on the beauty of that process, self-discovery and how through creative expression, we all can become more in tune with who we really are.”  

The anthem film was directed by Rubberband via Smuggler. Johannes Leonardo Group Creative Director Hunter Hampton notes that the concept for the ad was simple—that “what you shine a light on with your phone—whether a performer at a concert, a close friend, a weird interest—shows us who we can be.” The soundscape of the ad drives the point home further, giving a “sonic portrait of what our users are thinking about, what’s inspiring them.” 

All of the talent featured were real Instagram users, and the agency conducted about 40 interviews to create the ad’s story, Hampton adds.“The result turned out so much more emotional, real and charming for it because it was real.” 

Johannes Leonardo teamed with Facebook’s internal Creative X team on the campaign, which spans long-form and short-form video, out of home, digital, audio and social. The new spot will run across high-impact video takeovers on popular digital platforms, websites and streaming services. There will also be several high-impact out-of-home media placements in major cities in the U.S. and U.K. New brand billboards will appear on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, London’s Waterloo Station and Liverpool’s Lime Street. The campaign begins running in the U.S. and U.K. today and will debut in more countries later this year.

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