Instagram Tests Unskippable “Ad Breaks”: What Does This Mean for Users and Brands?

Published On: June 4th, 2024Categories: InstagramBy

Instagram Tests Unskippable “Ad Breaks”: What Does This Mean for Users and Brands?


Instagram is currently experimenting with unskippable “ad breaks,” forcing users to pause their scrolling to view an ad for a set period before continuing. This trial was confirmed by Instagram spokesperson Matthew Tye to The Verge, who mentioned that Instagram would “provide updates should this test result in any formal product changes.”


What Are Ad Breaks?

Several users on X (formerly Twitter) and Reddit have reported encountering these ad breaks. When scrolling through Instagram stories and posts, they were stopped and prompted to view an ad before they could continue. A screenshot showed Instagram displaying an “ad break” icon accompanied by a countdown timer indicating how long the user must wait before resuming their scroll.


When users tapped on the ad break icon for more details, a message explained, “Ad breaks are a new way of seeing ads on Instagram. Sometimes you may need to view an ad before you can keep browsing.” Unlike the current ad placements within home feeds and Reels, these unskippable ads introduce a new level of interruption.


The User Experience Dilemma

Instagram has long integrated sponsored posts and ads seamlessly within user feeds. However, the introduction of unskippable ad breaks is a significant shift and could disrupt the user experience. Tye noted that Instagram is “always testing formats that can drive value for advertisers,” emphasizing the platform’s continuous exploration of ad formats that benefit brands.

The comparison to YouTube’s unskippable ads is inevitable. These ads have often been cited as a primary reason for the popularity of ad blockers, as users find them highly disruptive. Although digital ad targeting aims to present relevant ads, it is not foolproof, and users frequently encounter promotions that do not interest them. This new Instagram feature risks amplifying user frustration.


Why Is Instagram Testing Ad Breaks?

The rationale behind this test may lie in the evolving nature of Instagram’s main feed, which is now heavily populated with AI-recommended content from profiles that users do not follow, particularly short-form Reels. This shift provides Meta, Instagram’s parent company, with more opportunities to insert promotions. If users are already viewing content from unfamiliar profiles, they might be less resistant to additional ads in that mix.

From a brand’s perspective, unskippable ads offer clear advantages in terms of guaranteed exposure and timed placement. However, for users, the experience might be far from pleasant. The forced viewing of ads could significantly disrupt their interaction with the platform.


The Potential Risks and Rewards

This move by Instagram is a risky one, as they may face backlash and possible app deletions from users. YouTube’s experience with unskippable ads proves that users strongly dislike being forced to view promotions, leading to the widespread adoption of ad blockers. Despite the inconvenience for scrollers, if these ads prove to be effective for advertisers, Meta may deem the potential increase in ad revenue worth the risk of user dissatisfaction.

While the ad break feature is still in the testing phase, its potential impact on user experience and engagement remains uncertain. Instagram must balance the benefits for advertisers with the possible backlash from users. The success of this new feature will depend on its execution and the overall reception of the Instagram community.

Our team is keeping an eye out for any new information regarding this feature.

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