New Kik and Instagram Features Attract Studio Ad Dollars

Messaging app Kik recently announced the launch of branded GIFs that are available through the app’s emoji/GIF keyboard and easily discoverable by users. Among the launch partners is Paramount Pictures, who have offered a bunch of Zoolander 2 GIFs for people to include in their messages to friends.

Instagam is looking for more ad dollars and the easiest way to do that is to allow advertisers to run longer ads. The latest expansion is to 60 second ads, up from the previous 30 seconds and the first company to experiment with those longer ads was Warner Bros., who used it to promote How To Be Single.

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First, a note about how Hollywood always seems to be out in front on these kinds of things. Creed was the first brand to use Twitter’s Promoted Moments, Universal and Warner Bros. were the first to get access to Snapchat’s extended ads and more. Wherever there’s a new ad unit on a social network or app it’s a fair bet a major studio will be there there at launch, or at least shortly thereafter.

Second, I have some issues with both of these, specifically from a user experience point of view.

With the Kik execution, the idea is obviously to get people to share those branded GIFs and in doing so spread the word of the movie. But when was the last time you saw someone on Twitter or Tumblr sharing a GIF that featured a brand watermark? I thought so. I get that everyone wants to speak GIF since it has become the internet’s favorite language and a vernacular unto itself for expressing whatever emotion you’re having. The branding, I feel, gets in the way of that. I may want to express that I’m ready to dance, but if that’s the case I’ll probably pull out Elaine from “Seinfeld” as opposed to something with “#Zoolander2” emblazoned on it. Not only does it not have branding that gets in the way but it’s from a common point of reference for most people.

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On the Instagram front it’s simpler: That’s a long time to get people to sit still on Instagram. Most every study of app usage I’ve seen says people are scrolling through their updates feed at a pretty speedy clip, stopping only to like the occasional photo or leave a comment. 60 seconds may be the total time they use the app at any given time as they check in while waiting for a bus or train or have a few seconds between other activities. If I were to make an educated guess, no one is going to stick around for anywhere near the total length of the ad. Indeed there’s no mention in any story I’ve read that this expansion is the result of user behavior indicating the 30-second spots were such a big hit. And it’s worth noting everyday users are still limited to 15 second videos.

As always, I’m interested to see or hear how these turn out and if pickup is decent or if there’s significant ROI for the studios in question. (On the latter point, I can’t figure out what the actual ROI here is other than reach and exposure.) Whatever the case, Hollywood continues to be happy to fun Silicon Valley’s advertising innovation.