When Facebook first announced that it was purchasing Instagram last year, a lot of folks were afraid it would ruin the popular photo-sharing network. They feared Zuckerberg’s group would come in, add a bunch of ads, and mess up the whole experience.

But here we are, nearly 18 months later, and nothing of the sort has happened yet. Instagram is thriving—in fact, it just announced that it has surpassed 150 million users—and there’s not a single ad in sight. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t coming…

Speaking with The Wall Street Journal this weekend, Instagram’s director of business operations Emily White talked about their intentions to monetize. They’re already in the process of courting advertisers, she says, and we could see ads within the next year.

“As director of business operations, the 35-year-old Ms. White effectively is the new chief operating officer of Instagram, the point person charged with turning a billion-dollar acquisition that has never made a cent into a real business. Mr. Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, still makes the ultimate decisions, but it is Ms. White who is responsible for courting brand marketers and laying the foundation for advertising.

There are no ads on Instagram, but Ms. White said it should be ready to begin selling ads within the next year.”

Ms. White goes on to explain that her big challenge is to figure out how to integrate marketing without jeopardizing Instagram’s cool factor. She wants to avoid the missteps Facebook encountered in its early ad days, so she frequently consults its top executives.

“After years without ads, Instagram’s big risk is alienating its members—especially its large base of teen and young adults, who are coveted by marketers. Too much overt marketing could clutter the service, undermining one of its strongest selling points.

“Theoretically, [Instagram] could be making hundreds of millions of dollars today, but they would need a big sales force and they would risk polluting the environment,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group.”

And we’ve already seen a preview of what the fallout could look like, should Instagram’s advertising initiative rub users the wrong way. Back in December, the company caused an uproar when a change in its ToS implied that user content could be used for ads.

So needless to say, Ms. White has her work cut out for her: make Instagram make money without stunting its current insane growth rate. The service has added 20 million users since June of this year, and more than 100 million since the Facebook acquisition.

instagram coke ads

Another problem she faces is how to sell something that Instagram currently gives away for free. Companies like Nike and Coca-Cola already use the site to run advertisements, and others have begun similar projects since video was introduced this summer.

As of right now, White says her team is playing around with a number of different strategies, including one that revolves around the app’s Discover feature, which promotes popular content, and one the search function, which allows users to look up images or themes

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

What do you think? What’s your take on Instagram running ads?

  • Hermès Vainstar Chu


    • ConduciveMammal

      Hardly. Did Facebook die when they started filling it with adverts? What about Google? Or even here at iDownloadBlog. Adverts suck, there’s no refuting that, but it hardly warrants the deletion of an account.

      • FOFF

        why does facebook app suck so bad technically? cant they use some of the ad money top pay some programmers to fix the damn app?

  • Willie

    i dont think this would affect users if they are just going to be a banner advertisements on top of the app.

    • Wamid

      Those are the worst kind actually..

      They take up a lot of the UI space, accidental “clicks” are immanent, and they’re ALWAYS there to annoy you!

      I think maybe they’d make them appear within the feed and you’d be able to scroll them away.

  • Marcus Daniel Houser

    This is why Myspace took a crap and ppl are leaving Facebook. Too many ads all the time.

    • Kurt

      never seen an ad on facebook. i never new till a few months ago that youtube had ads because of my browser plugin adblocker. if you want to support a site like IDB you can turn the ads on for that particular site.

  • Boss

    Knew ads where coming when they started adding videos not long now until you start seeing McDonalds videos

    • FOFF

      omg auto play is off

  • Facebook logic: Got to ruin everything that is brilliant.

    • ConduciveMammal

      Oh really? You’re pissed that they actually want to make money from a business that cost them a billion dollars?

      You do know that businesses are made to make money right? That’s their sole purpose. They aren’t doing this to be nice, they’re doing it to make money.

      • Wamid

        Still.. Nobody forced them to buy Instagram.

        They bought it because they could afford it.

        I get what you’re talking about.. But my thought was; why would you buy something that people use a lot, ruin its experience and call it business ?

      • Anthony Aaron Anderson

        Because instagram would have started advertising too anyways. Regardless of the Facebook buyout. They wouldn’t have sold out to Facebook in the first place if they were against the idea of ads. They just wanted a fat paycheck just like every other person out there. It was always about business. Facebook isn’t ruining it, they are just more effectively doing what instagram would have eventually done on their own. If anything you should be glad they have an experienced ad campaign team now. It sure as hell beats a rookie team that does trial and error ads until they figure it all out.

      • ConduciveMammal

        They bought it because they saw an excellent market opportunity. Something that could make them a lot of money. It’s not like Apple buying businesses to implement into their current business. A lot of business people actually buy completely separate companies just to bring in more money. The investors on Dragon’s Den are a prime example for this

    • FOFF


  • Apuff

  • Guess what the Ad’s will be all about foods, lattes, coffees and Starbucks…

  • Apanizo2

    Ads are annoying….. Not looking forward to this.

    • FOFF

      will slow down that app too

    • Kurt

      ad blocker

  • Arnar Helgi Traustason

    Lets Get Adblock Ready

  • on3simpleclick

    Why can’t they just charge 99 cents for it & forget about the Ads..
    That’s an easy few million dollars even if only a percentage of users buy it.

    • Filip Zíka

      Because if instagram was paid it wouldn’t have as many users as now.. Now they can grab money for 150M users who will see the ads.

      • FOFF

        i will block the ads

    • FOFF

      i wont pay

  • TeChNoStyLeZ

    until a jailbreak gets released and I can remove the ads using a jailbreak tweak on the 5S I will defenitely stop using instagram