Instagram replaces TV as way to advertise to young people

  • Instagram has completely usurped television as the key way to advertise to young people, according to financial services firm Cowen.
  • Cowen surveyed major US ad buyers, and it found that for new branding campaigns, the buyers would overwhelmingly pick the Facebook-owned Instagram as their first choice.
  • The data illustrates the continued strength of Facebook’s core advertising businesses, even as the company is buffeted by scandals.

The reign of television is coming to an end.

The medium, once considered all-important, has now been almost completely superseded by Instagram as the key way for advertisers to reach young people, according to new study by financial-service firm Cowen.

The findings underscore the extent to which media consumption habits have changed because of the internet — and serve as a reminder that for all the scandals and controversies surrounding Facebook, which owns Instagram, its core advertising business remains wildly profitable and successful.

Cowen surveyed 50 US ad buyers, who together represent about $14 billion in ad spend. They were asked “to identify the primary platform they would use for a new branding campaign” for two different age groups: 13 to 34, and 35-plus. The differences were stark.

For the 35-plus target market, television dominated, with 64% of respondents (on a spend-weighted basis) saying they “would start a new branding campaign on TV.” Next was Facebook, with 32%, then Instagram (2%), YouTube and Google Video (2%), and other (1%). Snapchat, notably, got 0%.

Screen Shot 2019 01 10 at 1.59.50 PM cowen ageCowen

But for branding campaigns targeting the younger 13 to 34 demographic, it was all about Instagram.

In the study, 61% of respondents (on a spend-weighted basis) picked the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app, followed by 21% for YouTube and Google Video, and 11% for Snapchat. TV comes in fourth place, with just 3% — incidentally, the same amount as the core Facebook service itself. “Other” squeaked in at 1%.

Screen Shot 2019 01 10 at 1.59.38 PM cowen ageCowen

The data demonstrates just how crucial Instagram now is to the Facebook mothership, as the company attempts to reach young people, and it shows television, while still supreme for older people, has now completely lost its luster for the younger generation.

It also further underscores the wisdom of Facebook’s decision to buy Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 — analysts estimated that Instagram alone would be valued at $100 billion as a standalone company. The app is now helping the Silicon Valley tech giant remain strong, even as opinions on its core app sour following years of scandals.

Ad buyers surveyed by Cowen said they expected the Facebook empire of apps to show a roughly steady share of digital-ad budgets over the next few years. Facebook itself will likely drop, but this will be offset by Instagram’s continued growth, Cowen projected.

Screen Shot 2019 01 10 at 1.56.45 PM instagram cowen facebook ad spendCowen

In fact, Instagram seems almost uniquely insulated from the woes facing Facebook and the broader tech industry. Cowen analysts wrote: “Instagram and Pinterest were the only 2 major social networks not impacted by privacy issues, with Instagram likely to benefit the most, as 42% of respondents expect to increase spend on Instagram amidst the current environment.”

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