Posted September 9, 2013 7:00 am by with 3 comments

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facebook-icon 1 Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Based on that fact alone, did you think it would be ad free forever? If you did I have some ocean front property in Kansas you need to give me a check for right now.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal you can expect your ad free Instagram experience should expire within a year or so if all goes as planned. We learn from the article that a Ms. Emily White will be one of the pivotal players in this change.

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.

Her challenge is to figure out how to integrate marketing without jeopardizing Instagram’s cool factor.

“We want to make money in the long term, but we don’t have any short-term pressure,” she said.

No short term pressure? You are part of a publicly traded company that has taken over a year to recover from a disaster of an IPO (which has finally recovered but not without a lot of consternation and hand wringing) and people have little tolerance for any downside. There is always short-term pressure and if you don’t believe that you can buy the ocean front property I have in Nebraska right after you stroke the check for that prime spot in Kansas.

It will be a very interesting juggling act to try to keep the cool factor of Instagram if ads do make their way into the product.

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.

White is not simply diving in though without making a plan and and getting input to try to avoid some of the missteps that Facebook made in their efforts to monetize the social network. Hopefully this one sentence from Ms. White truly encompasses where this will ultimately land.

“I’m always looking at how to keep it simple.”

Simple or not how do you feel about ads on Instagram as a user and as a marketer?

  • Frank,

    Great article. This is why alternatives MUST come to the surface! Check out Pressgram, a personal side project that eventually became a community effort (via a successful Kickstarter project) and just released a few days ago. Read more here about why it’s time for Pressgram:

  • Andrew Dennis

    Disappointed to hear ads are coming to Instagram. However, as you mentioned in the article, as soon as it was purchased by Facebook this became inevitable…

    Thanks for the article Frank!

  • cynthialil

    Her challenge is to figure out how to integrate marketing without jeopardizing Instagram’s cool factor. == Good luck with that.