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Instagram and Facebook Want to Interrupt Your Social Experience

When people talk about the kinds of ads they don’t like, the one common theme regardless of platform is that interrupting the experience is frustrating and unwelcome. That’s been true of TV advertising, which chops up the show you’re trying to enjoy, and it’s been true of online advertising, which is currently filled with pop-ups and flyovers and other units that sometimes force you to click two or three times (not including the “sign up for email” call to action) to get to the actual story you want to read. That’s why people flocked to TiVo, online/mobile ad-blockers, video-on-demand, pirating and more to avoid the entire ad experience.

Social network advertising hasn’t been quite that intrusive. Ads will appear on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram between updates from the people or profiles you follow, but someone’s update isn’t interrupted halfway through with an ad that can’t be skipped before you can view the rest of the pictures from their weekend skiing in Tahoe. That’s about to change, though.

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First, Facebook is reportedly planning to begin inserting “mid-roll” ads into the videos publishers and others are uploading to the network. The ads will appear at least 20 seconds into the video and revenue will be split 55%/45% between the publishers and Facebook.

Second, Instagram (owned by Facebook) is supposed to be looking into delivering ads into the Stories that people are pushing to their friends.

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Both of those are fundamentally intrusive ad options, ones that take the audience out of whatever it is they’re experiencing in the moment only to hit them with a commercial message that has to be viewed if they want to keep doing what they’re doing. That’s exactly the model that has driven people so mad on other platforms and which has driven them to ad-blocking/skipping technology in some form or another. It’s fundamentally saying that delivering an advertisement is more important than a seamless user experience. Interruption always wins because you can’t get around it.

That’s disappointing since we were supposed to be better than this. Social networks are showing, though, that the “if you don’t pay for the product, you *are* the product” maxim still had plenty of room for intrusive activity. Not only is our personal information being used to target ads and for other largely hidden reasons by these networks, they want to serve up more and more of the ads that make them money.

There’s a conversation to have about how Facebook’s ads will require a change in content creation to make those 20 seconds before the ad into some sort of call-to-action to keep watching after the ad, but for right now, it’s just telling that the only way these companies can think of to get people’s attention is to pull them out of what they came to the network to do.

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