NOT PAID FOR: The Rise and Rise of Sponsored Content

by Stuart Milne

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Scottish PR Agency Discusses Recent Social Media Changes and the Effect They Will Have on Online Creators

Instagram on phone hosted by Scottish PR Agency

ADVERTS can often feel like the bane of our existence – popping up, unfurling and generally making their way across online content in whatever novel way graphic designers have dreamt up.

More recently, however, advertising has become a little more passive, working its way in front of users in a way that is less intrusive and, often, less annoying for user experience.

Khloe Kardashian ad post hosted by Scottish PR Agency

Photo credit: Instagram

For these reasons ad blockers are often the first thing many people logging on for the first time to new devices will install.

In the form of sponsored content, stealthy adverts have a number costs and benefits.

They’re undoubtedly less intrusive on a superficial level lacking the unwanted audio and drop down banners but have the drawback that it is less obvious to tell that money has changed hands than it is for more traditional online ads.

For this reason Instagram has introduced a new feature that it hopes will enable content creators to make it much clearer when posts are motivated or influenced by sponsorship or commercial interests.

According to Instagram “this is a first step in a journey” but any efforts to increase transparency must be applauded.


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Instagram, of all the social media platforms, most reflects user’s aspirations as a place to show off your holidays, new playthings, Michelin starred meals and fashion. As such, making clear what you genuinely find desirable and what has had monetary involvement is an important issue.

Instagram Paid for hosted by Scottish PR Agency

Photo credit: Instagram

Unlike in PR, where the filter of the newsdesk will determine what is genuinely newsworthy, celebrities and trend-setters have free reign to determine what is published.

You would hope that most creators’ moral compasses are pointing firmly in the right direction when it comes to disclosing their influences but on a media outlet where people who engage are encouraged to take only a superficial view of posts there is a good chance they will not pay much attention to the caption, however well meaning.

The new tag will display a ‘paid partnership’ message just under the Instagrammer’s username – hopefully making their motives clearer.

This marks a sea change in the options social media users will have when posting their content.

No longer will #ad suffice to notify followers of their intentions on a post.

Now, a conscious choice will have to be made to omit the ‘paid partnership’ tag and mislead their fans in some way.

Whether or not this will have any measurable impact on the way Instagrammers operate remains to be seen but if this is the first step we can expect to see more drastic measures from Instagram and its peers.

Transparency should be applauded and honesty encouraged – adding this extra step promotes that and removes an element of deniability that might have existed for content creators previously.

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