Instagram Reels

By: Nick Gambino

You thought you could escape. You dreaded it but they’re here—Instagram Reels ads. You never had a chance. While it’s not totally surprising, it’s a bummer to know there’s yet another feature being monetized in such a way as to strip some of the joy from the experience.

Reels was launched by Instagram in August 2020 as a clone of the popular TikTok app that blew up during the pandemic. They kind of stand alone as their own little entertaining corner of the Facebook-owned app. Users can make 30-second videos made up of multiple clips and layer in effects and audio. Again, it’s just a clone of TikTok. Just like Stories is a clone of Snapchat.

Instagram has been testing these ads in Brazil, India, Germany and Australia before finally launching it worldwide this week. The ads will appear as looping vertical videos lasting up to 30 seconds, much like what you might see in Stories. You’ll note that they’re ads by the little “sponsored” tag on the bottom. If companies get smart, they’ll figure out a way to make these ads feel like an organic post amongst all the other noise while also eliciting action.

You’ll have the option of interacting with the app in one or way or another—skip, like, save, share or tap the “Shop” button. Of course, this latter one is preferred by the brand, while the revenue Facebook/Instagram makes just for posting the ad is good enough for them.

We don’t know how many ads you’ll see in Reels, but apparently, it depends on how or how much you use the app or, more specifically, the Reels feature. We’ll just have to chock up that mystery to the ever-cryptic question mark that is the Facebook algorithm.

Facebook makes the majority of its monstrous cash from ads. Companies pay them, provide the ad and the social media giant need only stick it in front of its massive user base. It’s simple. Owing to the fact that this is their largest revenue stream, it makes sense why they are constantly shoveling ads into every corner of their various apps. If you see a new feature with no ad experience, be patient, they’ll get there.

So next time you fire up Reels and see an ad, now you know why.