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How Millennials and Instagram Are Changing Advertising

Advertising on visual platforms is being touted as the future of marketing. Marketers are increasingly shifting their strategies to visual platforms, and the era of Snapshot Marketing is beginning. But the look and feel of the content on these platforms are also beginning to seep outside of social, and Millennials and Instagram-style imagery are changing the way that advertising looks.

In our roundup of the platforms testing the waters of Snapshot Marketing, we included the keys to creating successful visual campaigns on visual platforms. The consistent message? Brands should be fitting in to the content that is already being put out by consumers. The Instagram Handbook for Brands, which gives tips on the “secrets of captivating imagery,” advises using high-quality images that also appear as if a regular user could have created them. Those that are too “staged,” as the somewhat poorly-received Michael Kors test ads in November were, are not as embraced by young consumers who are looking for a feeling of continuous authenticity on the platform. In other words, too polished comes off as inauthentic.

There is a growing feeling that Instagram-style images also work off the platform, and Millennials’ taste for images and videos that feel more “real” is beginning to change the way that all advertising might look in the future. Social media agency Laundry Service says that Instagram photos are more effective in advertising than stock images and studio shots. In tests, “Instagram-style” images received click-through rates as high as 8%, compared to just 2.35% using “regular photos.” Stock and studio shot images in advertising just didn’t work as well as the “non-glossy pictures shot outside of a studio” that resemble Instagram images. The results make sense when considering Millennials’ preferences for authentic and “organic” content from brands as well as their attraction to imperfection. In response to their tests, Laundry Service has started an entire Instagram division, building a network of Instagram photographers that will shoot photos and videos for advertisers.
Adweek recently took note of a number of marketers that are foregoing staged ads altogether in favor of using user-generated content. Coca-Cola’s World Cup ads are taking digital content offline. Their Happiness Flag campaign is launching a 3,015-square-meter flag covered in 219,000 photos collected on social media. Miller Lite is currently creating their first-ever user-generated commercial via Twitter. The spot will air in August, and be comprised mainly of fan-submitted videos. In May, Coca-Cola released their own user-generated spot. The evidence is mounting that there is a real place for unpolished ad content, and television, print, and digital are all feeling the effects of social media style images.

Visual commerce platform Olapic is capitalizing on the change. The company pulls user-generated images from social media and integrates them into brand sites, making them shoppable. ASOS, Coach, and Lancôme are three of the clients that Olapic is helping to make more appealing by featuring regular consumers in consumer-shot images. Co-founder Jose de Cabo told The Drum, “Customer photos are the most authentic, compelling and abundant brand assets available today. Smartphones and platforms like Instagram have turned all of us into models and photographers and Olapic is the critical link connecting brands with consumers in a more meaningful way.”
These consumer-influenced advertising forms are just beginning to appear, but brands should take note: even if user-content is not being used, perfectly staged ads might soon begin to feel out of place, and anything that gives off a “stock” feeling could be the kiss of death when it comes to appealing to Millennial consumers.