It's Time to Talk About Advertisers' Addiction to Instagram

A 12-step program to curb your dependence

Creativity thrives when diverse voices "speak," so how is it that when it comes to social media, we have embraced the Facebook/Instagram monopoly with the fervor of an addict? 

Creative ad agencies live in a world of three dominant digital players, although history has taught us monopolies are rarely the friend of diverse voices. Given that we are focused more on diversity this summer than we have been before, perhaps it's time to also consider broadening the social platforms we depend on.

If you read that as a question, it was rhetorical. Which is to say, it is time to broaden our tactics and where we send our dollars.

While Google is a bigger monopoly, and Amazon has come to dominate retail searches, Facebook—and in particular, its star property Instagram—is the agency favorite. Its darling, if you will. No one wakes up first thing to check which text ads are new or see if their duvet cover is on sale, but we check Instagram 12 times before lunch, and so do our clients.

Then, in July, a tiny crack in the monopoly world, courtesy of the Facebook boycott, and suddenly our love and reliance on Instagram started to look a little like a crutch, something we grab for a bit too much in a panic at the first sign of a wobble.

What is it about Instagram that is so dependence inducing? Even though Snapchat created this brilliant format, the real excitement for marketers came when Facebook bought Instagram and added the seductive power of its targeting. They consolidated their lead by copying everything Snap came up with, making sure ads on Facebook and Instagram were seamlessly connected from design through to reporting—it became all so easy and so desirable. 

But we really love Instagram because we see our work all the time in our feeds and on our Stories, and more importantly, so do our clients. No other creative marketing work is so visible or such a clear embodiment of the power of creativity to lift a brand, and it's all so smooth.

But the boycott has reminded us there are so many exciting, creatively energizing channels available—Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, even Twitter for all its Wild West content offers a delightful breadth of flexibility—but none of them are as easy and comfy to fall into as IG Stories. Flip, watch and repeat. Every advertiser knows that creating messages that stand above the crowd is rarely easy, as it requires stimulation and insight and surprise, and those things don't often come from monopoly players. Hard as it can be to convince clients to try a small, new and—gasp—independent platform, it is worth it. And I urge you to give them the chance to fight for diversity in media. 

Adding a mixed diet of other social platforms that will inevitably stretch your skills and challenge you to new highs is, in a word, a good thing. The boycott will not kill Instagram, and may barely slow its inevitable destruction of Snapchat. But it is a great warning that diverse voices come from diverse platforms and monopoly is rarely the friend of creative innovation. So let's get on board, acknowledge our addiction and do our best to move forward.

Here are 12 steps to fight agency addiction to the 'Gram.

• Admit there is a problem. Be honest, how often do you as an advertiser check your posts on IG?

• Understand you have little power. Our ad world is owned by a few monopolies and you have to be on them, but don't let that keep you from trying the new kid on the block.

• Try doing your creative research without using Facebook or Instagram for examples. It's tougher than you'd think.

• Talk to someone under 20 and ask nicely if they will show you their app usage on their phone—but don't shame them when they do.

• Try a day without Insta. Wake up and check Pinterest some time.

• Pick a campaign from last year and envision what it would be without Instagram.

• Plan your next campaign with YouTube as its center and IG as just a support.

• Stop relying on influencers—but this is a whole other thing to talk about...

• Go insane and ask your creative team to plan a campaign using Amazon ads and search text only.

• Embed some Pinterest images in emails to clients and maybe even invite them to share a board for the next campaign plan.

• Draw something with an actual pen and paper and mail it to a friend. Sometimes old-school sharing feels great.

• Don't panic, there's always Messenger and WhatsApp to try, too.

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Byron Beach
Byron Beach is svp of digital and social at Orcí.

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