Although reluctant to drill down further into the numbers, these stats at least reveals that Instagram’s global growth is impressive.  

Instagram’s current user base of 300m has doubled in the last two years. This growth puts it two years ahead of Facebook in terms of how long it took for the same number of people to use its parent company’s platform. Facebook currently has 35m active monthly users in the UK. 

The fast adoption of Instagram has been driven by many trends in consumer behavior: the shift from text based communications to visual based communications, the shift from ‘search with intent’ to ‘discovery’ and of course most prevalently, the shift away from desktop to camera enabled, always-connected mobile phones.

70m photos are uploaded via mobile every day, generating 2.5bn likes. This is a phenomenal amount of engagement and proves that Instagram users are an ever-connected bunch hungry for new images, found through a small number of discovery tools.

Instagram has been a fantastic platform for brands wishing to build their audience, drive brand equity and build relationships by aligning their products or services to the lifestyle of the average Instagram user.

It’s a powerful engagement tool and users know that when they follow or interact with a brand, there won’t be a hard sell because the functionality just doesn’t exist. 

Until now.

I covered the roll-out of Instagram ads and its implications for users and brands last month and it’s certainly an interesting development that raises a lot of questions.

How will Instagram be able to retain its users’ trust? Is Instagram’s core demographic even that bothered whether there are ads or not? Will the balance between commerce and worthwhile content, so far a pipedream in most native advertising examples, finally be successful?

I was invited to Instagram HQ today to hear a few case studies from brands that have already had success with Instagram ads, as well as a few technical details about the platform and its future development.

Brands working with Instagram

So far there have been 500 campaigns in total globally and Instagram states that 97% of those campaigns have generated a significant uplift in brand recall, 2.7 times higher than the Nielsen control group.

For many of the case studies below, the figures will dwell in ‘brand recall’ metrics, as Instagram wouldn’t divulge click-through figures (via the off-site ‘Learn More’ button) and certainly nothing revenue based.

Interestingly though, each of the brands using Instagram ads have had direct involvement with the Instagram team in terms of the ad’s development.

This isn’t a ‘submit your sponsored post to Facebook for fast automatic approval’ type deal, if you want to advertise with Instagram you have to have a one-to-one relationship with the ad team.

This can be anything from a half-year long process of developing the creative with a brand that is new to the platform, or submitting your finished ads with the Ad Integrity Team and being advised on the final look of the post.

This means that no campaigns have ever been rejected, as there is a constant dialogue between the two parties, and it also means that Instagram can retain a high quality control and ensure that ads appear fully in context with the experience.

Instagram’s model is CPM based, and perhaps most surprisingly, there is no additional cost for the service provided above.

How sustainable this is in the long-run is entirely up for debate, and how long before users become frustrated that they don’t have access to a ‘Learn More’ button that can link to their own off-site interests is also something that time will only tell.

Case studies:

John Lewis 

John Lewis wished to appeal to a younger female demographic, it did so by partnering with influential fashion bloggers for a campaign that showcased the bloggers wearing its clothes in a series of simple fashion shoots.

This led to a 14 point lift in purchase intent among 25-34 year old females and a 10 point lift in ad recall.


Mercedes-Benz USA set out to build excitement for its new SUV among younger drivers who admire the brand, but may not have considered it part of their lifestyle. 

Mercedes-Benz took inspiration from the #ThingsOrganizedNeatly hashtag and asked photographers and brand ambassadors to answer “What would you pack in your GLA?” it used their photos of neatly arranged items photographed from above on a custom GLA cargo mat to portray the versatility of the vehicle for various weekend trips. 

This led to 54% increase in website visits form Instagram and Facebook Branding Ads, and a 580% increase when combined with Facebook Direct Response Ads. It also achieved a 14 point left in ad recall.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is a successful and popular airline throughout Europe however it has poor brand awareness in the UK. Armed with the insight that food is one of the best ways to experience different cultures, Turkish Airlines took to Instagram in early February for four weeks with its #EpicFood campaign. 

Keeping the logo subtly in the background, and focusing on the food itself led to a 28 point lift in ad recall and 13 point lift in brand awareness.

Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s Instagram ad, used to to spread awareness of its new Anchorman inspired Scotchy Scotch Scotch flavour reached 9.8m users and saw a 33-point increase in ad recall. 

Of the users who saw the ad, 17% became aware of the new flavour and associated it with Ben & Jerry’s. There was a 33 point lift in ad recall.