Are Instagram’s Fake Ads A Symptom Of A Bigger Problem?

It seems like a natural evolution that following fake news we now have fake ads. Digiday reported earlier this month that Instagram has been facing an influx of fake promoted posts. Loosely named “brands“ have been touting hugely discounted designer products across the social network. The brand safety issues are obvious, while consumers face paying for counterfeit goods at best.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Instagram has a duty to protect brands and its audience from scams and fraudulent products. I’d argue that Instagram also has a duty to protect their user experience.

In its inception, the Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom used to vet every single ad on the platform, but the scaling of advertising has created obvious challenges. While there’s no doubt Instagram will take appropriate steps to purge fake ads from its platform, it’s much more difficult for an algorithm to determine ugly ads. Instagram has largely the same advertising model as Facebook, yet pitches a very different environment. Are these two compatible?

Initially we viewed Instagram as a high-end brand space. The beautifully tiled magazine layout is a perfect fit for fashion, luxury, cars, food etc., yet without human input in the approval process, the quality of the environment is easily polluted. Seemingly endless inventory needs to be filled; this is how we end up with fake ads and low quality imagery flooding what is supposed to be the glossy magazine of social media. The impact and potential Instagram has for brands is incredible, but to truly maximise it’s potential, the inventory needs to become more premium. An advertising model with higher impact formats, at a higher cost, seems like a perfect fit; while consumers would benefit from a de-cluttered feed.

Facebook hasn’t announced any indication that they are looking to alter the Instagram advertising offering and there is a gap in the market for a premium social network. It would be refreshing to see a social network truly prioritise impact and quality over quantity and low cost inventory. There is obviously a need for both, but we have plenty of the latter.

Instagram as a platform fits the bill on paper, but needs to adapt to truly differentiate.