Advertising on Instagram has been on everyone’s lips recently. With this month’s announcement of a global launch and suite of additional products (including 30-second video ads and a guaranteed delivery premium product) the fervor has only heightened.

This is certain to play a large factor in holiday season advertising and upcoming Q4 media plans, as brands line up to take advantage of Instagram’s passionate and highly engaged user base. However, Instagram is still a very unknown entity for most brands and agencies, which can be daunting in the lead-up to the all-important holiday buying season.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the current media buying landscape on Instagram and what you can expect to see.

What’s Important and What’s Available

The first relevant piece of the Instagram ad landscape is this: what can a brand actually do on Instagram? Once you work through the different creative options, there are only currently four objectives available to advertise against on Instagram: video views, site traffic, mobile app installs, and the premium awareness product “Marquee.” The notable omission here (and one that may irk some brands and planners) is engagements on Instagram posts. That means Instagram, or more specifically, Facebook, will not algorithmically optimize towards users most likely to engage on your posts. Advertisers can still manually optimize ads for the most engaging segments and creative, however it’s a bit of a workaround.

This means there’s a significantly increased emphasis on video for brands that want to leverage Instagram. Video campaigns will be the primary vehicle for driving brand metrics such as awareness, ad recall, and purchase intent. On top of video, brands are already seeing great results with traffic and app install campaigns. These will be important campaigns for many brands launching apps and delving further into eCommerce as they look to capitalize on digital buying trends.

Instagram as a Function of Facebook

For the day-to-day user, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Facebook owns Instagram. From an ad standpoint, Facebook has done a phenomenal job of aligning Instagram’s strategy to its own. This creates a much simpler ecosystem and a huge number of advantages, although there are a couple of caveats to be aware of.

The Pros:

  • Instagram advertisers have access to the vast trove of targeting data available on Facebook. Yes, that means not just geos and demos, but interest lists, custom audiences, and behavioral targeting are all options for Instagram targeting.
  • Instagram uses all of Facebook’s campaign hierarchy and bidding algorithms. This is extremely convenient for already-familiar media buyers who don’t have to learn a new system in a very busy Q4.

The Caveats:

  • All Facebook targeting is extremely valuable, but it means no Instagram- specific targeting—at least right now. In other words, brands cannot currently target ads to Instagram-specific keywords or hashtags, or followers of their Instagram profile.
  • There’s no reachand frequency targeting for campaigns—yet.

Playing the Long Game

With its initial positioning of Instagram advertising, Facebook is clearly playing the long game on Instagram to position it as a brand awareness tool as opposed to a social brand engagement tool. This is the same way Facebook advertising is shifting; the focus on video and measurement using Nielsen brand metrics, as opposed to social engagement objectives, makes this quite obvious.

In the short-term, this is likely to upset agency media buyers where engagement tends to be the currency for social campaigns today. Facebook is betting this will change as brands focus more on video content; resonance metrics that are not always associated with a click, sales lift and ROI. Longer term, they’ll be able to align advertiser objectives across the customer journey and serve sequenced content across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and throughout the web using Atlas and the Facebook Audience Network to reach consumers at all stages of the purchase funnel.

Instagram in the Media Plan

Today, Instagram fits into a Q4 media plan as a highly visual platform with a rabid user base for brands to tap into. Given the visual nature, ad content is as important here as anywhere in digital advertising, if not more so. With the current availabilities, brands should emphasize video campaigns on Instagram to generate awareness and lift purchase intent in an always-competitive holiday buying season.