For years, Instagram users wandered aimlessly through the app hoping to see just one more ad, scrolling past annoying posts from friends, family, and exes in a desperate hunt for marketing content. It seems Instagram heard our pleas. The company announced that it’s found a way to fill the app with even more ads, this time in search results and in your phone’s push notifications.
“People come to Instagram to discover new brands, products or upcoming events,” Instagram wrote on its business blog on Tuesday. “Today, we’re introducing two new ad products that give businesses more ways to get discovered and form meaningful connections–Reminder ads and ads in search results.”
The modest blog post is short on details, but Instagram says it’s testing ads in search results designed to “reach people actively searching for businesses, products and content.” These ads will show up in the feed when you type in a search term. If they’re anything like the search ads on Google or Amazon, you can expect the ads to look confusingly similar to real search results for the thing you’re actually trying to find. Instagram says these ads will launch in the next few months.
But that’s not all. The company seems even more keen on Instagram’s new “Reminder ads.” Instagram says it’s partnered with brands like the Starz TV network to test these new ads, which are meant to help companies announce upcoming “movements” and events. Now, when you scroll past an ad in your feed, advertisers will be able to include a “Remind me” button. You’ll be able to tap to receive three notifications from Instagram: a day before the event, 15 minutes before it starts, and at the time it’s happening.
Instagram isn’t the first to experiment with ads in the notifications on your phone. In late 2022, Uber launched ads for other companies in the app’s notifications. Apple hawks its own products there. These are just some of the exciting and horrible places you’re going to see ads in 2023.
You might have noticed it feels like you’re seeing more ads these days. It’s no accident. As the economy seizes, interest rates go up, and venture capitalists tighten their purse strings, companies are pressured to find new ways to make money. When you’ve got a consumer-facing platform, upping the number of ads is an easy option.
Ironically, the growing number of ads we’re all seeing is a side effect of one particular company’s privacy efforts. In 2021, Apple introduced an “App Tracking Transparency Setting,” which iPhone users see when an app asks for permission to track them. Most people say no, and that cuts off the flow of iPhone user data, to an extent.
Less data means it’s harder to target ads, and ads that aren’t targeted are often less profitable. Dialing up the number of ads people are seeing is one solution for many ad-driven companies—such as Meta.
On Instagram, you can feel the aftershocks of all these economic forces directly. These days a casual stroll through Instagram isn’t just an opportunity to see posts from people you follow (and people you don’t). It’s increasingly a way to pump ads directly into your veins.
The app already has a long list of advertising products with enticing names like image ads, reels ads, video ads, carousel ads, collection ads, and numerous others. Of course, Instagram users would love if the app shoehorned in more ways for businesses to monetize their eyeballs. But so many were afraid to ask. It seemed like an impossible fantasy. But as Theodor Herzl once said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy walked on stage at Rice University and announced one of the boldest projects of all time. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” Kennedy said. When it comes to pleasing advertisers, it’s clear that the best and the brightest at Instagram adopt a similar mentality.