Brands Give Instagram's Carousel A Whirl

Following a soft launch last month, Instagram is ready to dispense its Carousel ads to a broader audience. The first brands to give Carousel a whirl include Showtime, Banana Republic, Old Navy, L'Oreal Paris, and Samsung.

“People will start to see carousel ads from more brands in the coming weeks,” a company spokeswoman says.

Starting this past weekend, Showtime began using the ads -- which encourage users to swipe left for more branded content -- to promote the second season of "Penny Dreadful." Each ad features a key character in the spooky series.

Banana Republic has enlisted Song of Style blogger Aimee Song to share spring collection looks through carousel ads.

Later in the “carousel,” the units also serve a link to brands’ mobile sites. Not surprisingly, this feature is particularly appealing to retail brands.

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“Creating relevant content for our customers, while also making it easier for them to shop, is a win-win,” according to Aimee Lapic, Banana Republic senior vice president/GM of customer experience.

Likening them to a multi-page print campaign, Instagram is counting on the ads to turn its current popularity into profits. Sensitive to user tastes and privacy concerns, however, Instagram has taken a cautious approach to advertising.

“Instagram’s ad business is still very new and has a lot of growing up to do,” Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst with eMarketer, recently told Social Media & Marketing Daily. “For example, its targeting capabilities are still very limited.”

Among other efforts, Instagram recently rolled out verified badges for brands, as well as celebrities and athletes. Williamson said brands would surely respond well to the authentication initiative.

Still, at the risk of alienating users, Instagram parent Facebook has been steadily introducing new opportunities for advertisers to show off their wares. The social giant recently unveiled Product Ads -- a format for brands to show off multiple product offerings, and in some cases, their entire inventory.

Analysts say the initiatives make good business sense. "Facebook has clearly learned from Google's product listing ads by including automatic product feeds so that retailers can keep ads aligned with real-time inventory," Yory Wurmser, retail and ecommerce analyst at eMarketer, recently told Social Media & Marketing Daily. "With the wide-scale introduction of product ads, Facebook is creating a full menu.

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