Reaching Post-Millennials in Advertising: Checking-in with Instagram

By: Céline De Clercq

In the process of covering reach, engagement, and boosting ads this week in class, I’ve taken a particular interest in Instagram advertising. Instagram’s easy to use interface makes it one of the most popular social media interfaces for youth, and one that adults have an equally easy time getting into. Its photo-based platform is fun, quick, and a key arena for advertisements that reach youth markets.

Alesia Hsiao, a writer for Marketing Strategy at even calls Instagram “the king of social media” with a “4.21 percent engagement rate.”



One thing that really brings Instagram to the forefront of advertising is how seamlessly advertisements tend to blend into users’ feeds. When browsing Facebook, blogs, news sites, or even just when casually google searching, ads are usually easy to distinguish and sometimes even obnoxiously in the way. On Instagram, however, I find myself constantly caught by sponsored content and advertisements, often thinking they’re posts by friends. As noted by Alesia Hsiao from “most people [don’t] notice ads cluttering up their feeds,” a viable pro and con of Instagram advertising. No company wants their ads to be considered a nuisance, but they do need to be distinguished in some way in order to catch people’s attention. With an estimated 76% of American teens age 13-17 using Instagram (NORC at University of Chicago 2017), it seems like the perfect outlet to reach youth. But if these photos look too much like a post you would see in your feed already, how effective are these ingrained advertisements?

For example, let’s look at this post in my newsfeed by @headlandslodge:


Looks like your friend went to the beach, right? Like cool, whatever. I mean the “Reserve” pop-up doesn’t even appear until you scroll over the picture, so it seems like this would easily be overlooked, even if it is habitually liked.

However, let’s look at @thrivemkt’s sponsored post:

Oooh, a quick tutorial on making food? You’ve got me. Even if I did think it was a friend’s post, scrolling over this caught my interest and ended up getting me to follow their page. I know it works the same way for my teenage sisters and their makeup tutorials.

So, what’s the takeaway?

Sure, photo advertising on Instagram is easy and doesn’t bother users, but if you really want youth (and honestly most of us) to engage, make something that really catches their eye – make it move.

Instagram already knows this. Their very own business advertising website suggests, “Short, fun videos that resonate with [your target] audience” when trying to “increase awareness among young people.” They outline effective social media campaigns including @hismileteeth’s “Punchy videos with Conor McGregor” (ha, I see you Instagram) that resulted in 5x the return on the ad spending, a 90% increase in male customers, and a 14 million reach in relation to 18- to 24-year-olds. If you want to check it out follow the link:

Trying to engage youth?

Instagram? Yes

Ads? Yes

Photos? Maybe

Videos? Definitely


Twitter: @celine74605957

Instagram: @celinika123


Additional Information and Works Referenced: (Build your business on Instagram) (Different types of Instagram Ads) (Instagram Ad Costs Benchmark Report) (Media Report survey from U Chicago)

This Article Has 10 Comments
  1. Georgia Orgain says:

    I really liked the points you made on the positive Instagram ads blend very well, I always like ad photos before I realize they are ads. I agree with your point about making it more engaging by adding movement. Although, usually if I know its an ad I won’t even click the video to start with.

  2. Samantha Nadel says:

    For me personally, I am less likely to watch a video than I am to view a photo on social media. As you mentioned in your post, Instagram’s “photo-based platform in fun and quick,” and this is exactly why Instagram boasts a high engagement rate. Photos are consumed much quicker and easier by those perusing social media than videos are. Usually I do not have the time or patience to watch a video, even if it’s only 30 seconds long, but maybe other people are different.

  3. Emily Soury says:

    I totally agree with everything you’ve said in your post! With the new (horrible) snapchat update, I can especially see how Instagram is pulling ahead as a top social media platform. I’ve definitely been lured in by ads before because of how seamlessly they are incorporated into my news feed. Along with adding movement to up engagement rates, I also believe that Instagram’s new “tap to shop” feature is really improving company’s engagement rates!

  4. Kayla Henderson-Wood says:

    This article offered major insight into Instagram and media in general! I agree that Instagram’s ability to seamlessly integrate advertising is what drives so much of their business. What I particularly notice is the pricing feature that puts you just a tap away from their actual product. I think this is one of the many aspects that gets people to buy products via instagram!

  5. Kelsey Fagan says:

    Thanks for giving a different platform’s perspective on ads and sponsored content. Talking this week about Facebook was different than the points you made in this post about Instagram. I definitely don’t notice sponsored content on Instagram as often either. I find myself liking a lot of sponsored content without realizing it. This insight on Instagram advertising for the younger audience is very insightful.

  6. Tess Meyer says:

    I appreciate the simplicity of this post. Videos, especially stop motion, really catch my attention. I also think it is extremely smart when food companies use stop motion videos to show the ingredients of what goes into their products. Rx Bar is a great example of this!

  7. Mikayla Edwards says:

    You bring up some great points! I definitely get caught up thinking sponsored posts are my friends and often times follow the account afterwards. Instagram is by far my favorite social media outlet and its ads don’t bother me near as much as Facebooks ads do!

  8. Ani Clifford says:

    This was very interesting to read! I definitely agree that Instagram is the platform that resonates best with post-millennials. Adding videos or movement into any post or digital piece of work definitely makes it catch a person’s eye. Our short attention span favors things that move. It is very interesting how advertisers have noticed this and are finally using it to their advantage. Instagram started doing this when they introduced Boomerangs and added videos to their app.

  9. Erich Aguillon says:

    So smart comparing photos to videos, especially giving examples side by side. Very insightful. This is something every social marketing team in every company should read if they truly want to know what grabs people’s attention.

  10. Claudia Davis says:

    Instagram is without a doubt the most popular form of social media and it does not surprise me one bit that 76% of teens have one. Blending advertisements into a user’s feed along with the posts of the people they follow is absolutely genius. It allows for the user to think that the ad is personalized to him and does not distract him from the feed. The user can simply click on the ad or scroll past, a great Instagram tactic.

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