How five brands in APAC are using Instagram’s self-serve ads

Last September, Instagram opened its advertising services to all global markets. We asked five APAC brands for their verdict on the new offering. 

Instagram’s self-serve ads have been given the thumbs up from brands piloting the new offering across Asia Pacific (APAC). However, maintaining a premium user experience will be key as Instagram continues to refine the way ads are served and viewed on the platform.

Brands are using Instagram ads – available through Facebook’s ad management tools – to increase awareness amongst targeted audiences, as well as achieve direct response objectives such as website clicks, mobile app installs and video views. Content is delivered as photos, videos or using Instagram’s Carousel and Marquee formats.

With businesses in almost every country now able to access the ad offering, Instagram’s biggest challenge is to balance advertising demand with user experience. Too many ads for instance, can cause fatigue amongst users encouraging them to hide the ad altogether.

“This is something we will continue to get feedback on and learn from, whether it’s in the ad quality, or whether we are serving too much. We will then feed this back to advertisers, ” says Jayne Leung, head of Greater China, Facebook.

Here’s what APAC brands had to say about Instagram’s pilot ad offering:

1. Hong Kong: Vidal Sassoon

More than 70 percent of Instagrammers in Hong Kong are aged between 18 and 34, according to 2015 Nielsen Audience Research. In addition to being predominantly young, they are “stylish, well-educated, with high spending power”. What is particularly interesting, they rank brands as the third most popular category of interest behind friends and celebrities.

This demographic is the type of target audience P&G’s Vidal Sassoon was hoping to reach when it launched its Instagram pilot ad campaign in Hong Kong and Taiwan in September 2015.

“The target consumer for Vidal Sassoon are those edgy young people who have to make sure they are perfect with a great hairstyle before they leave their home. Instagram users have a lot of commonality with that,” says Eric Lin, marketing director, haircare, Hong Kong & Taiwan, Procter & Gamble.

Lin says the opportunity to work with Instagram allowed the brand to showcase its personality through the use of visual images and reach a wider audience of young consumers.

Here are the ads (be sure to press play for the full effect).

Vidal Sassoon uses social listening  to discover which search terms, trending buzzwords, product reviews and viral content might work best for the brand. It enables the hair chain to understand the true essence of a ‘beauty junkie’ and how they engage across Twitter, Facebook, Google search, e-commerce sites and blogs.

Used in conjunction with regular qualitative research from P&G, the brand is able to better understand its target consumers beyond demographics and psychographics, for a more ‘genuine’ profile of these women.

“We really work hard to mirror where the beauty junkie might be and to connect with her in a genuine way, almost as if we were a friend,” says Helen Heatley, global business director, Vidal Sassoon at Leo Burnett.


At a brand-building level, the initiative was a success. Vidal Sassoon experienced a 24 percent increase in brand recall and a 2 percent rise in brand favorability in audiences who saw the ad.

2. Taiwan: Hong Kong Tourism Board

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) ran a pilot campaign in Taiwan in September 2015, riding on its wine and dine festival. The aim: to keep Hong Kong top of mind as a next travel destination and drive visitors to a website for more information via a ‘learn more’ button.

HKTB ran a series of ads that showcased experiences from locals or visitors.


“We believe that there is always a good reason to come to Hong Kong, so our job is to tell that story and explain why, in a genuine and authentic way…. Using real life stories adds credibility to the experiences,” says Tina Chao, general manager, marketing, HKTB.


The Hong Kong Tourism Board experienced a 17-point increase on ad recall and a five-point increase in brand awareness of those who saw the Instagram ads.

Note: Instagram measures results using Nielsen’s Brand Effect measures. This is the degree (or point difference) to which a specific advertising campaign changes consumer knowledge, perceptions and interest for a given product or brand when compared with a control group who have not seen the ad.

It also helped increase @discoverhongkong’s Instagram following, from 9,000 in late 2014 when budget was reshuffled to the site, to almost 60,000 followers today.

Taiwan was a testing ground for Instagram ads. Going forward, the group will be looking at using targeted ads in the Southeast Asian market.

3. Thailand: DTAC

Instagram has more than 7 million monthly active users (MAU) in Thailand. A TNS study conducted in 2014 found 85 percent of Thai Instagrammers follow at least one brand, 60 percent will interact with a brand if the content and products are relevant to them, and 34 percent prefer posts that have buttons allowing them to go directly to a brand’s website.

In addition, December 2015 research from TNS shows almost 50 percent of Thai Instagrammers have purchased products after seeing them on the platform.

Instagram Ads_Thais on Instagram (users aged 18+), TNS (commissioned by Facebook), Dec 2015_600

Telecommunications provider DTAC was one of the first to employ Instagram ads in September to promote its 4G network. The two-pronged approach used Instagram’s Marquee format for a high impact, single-day campaign to reach three million people. It then targeted ads to particular groups over the following month.

TV commercials , Facebook and Twitter also formed part of the DTAC 4G network campaign.

The message: DTAC has you covered across the whole country.


The ads reached over three million users and achieved 777,000 video views. DTAC says it experienced high interaction with 21 percent clicking on to the website. It also saw a 30 percent increase in followers on its Instagram account.

“The CTR was a value add we didn’t expect,” says Nuttaputch Wongreanthong, vice president, head of online marketing, DTAC.

He says success on Instagram comes down to content – the wrong content is a disaster for brands on this platform. For example, content was drawn from the TVC images of the 4G campaign, but the images were especially customized for Instagram.

As one of the first to be granted access to Instagram ads, DTAC was also able to use the initiative to reinforce its image as an innovative and first-to-market brand.

4. Australia: L’Oréal Australia

The Australian market has had access to Instagram ads since Oct 2014, so it’s not new there.

For the purpose of this article, we looked specifically at a  L’Oréal Australia campaign which ran in February 2015 to raise the profile of Maybelline New York’s Brow Drama mascara.

Video was not a format option at the time the brand ran this campaign, so a series of three still images were used.

Featuring Australian model and Instagrammer Stephanie Smith, the ads were aimed at 18-to-40 year-old Australian women.

The first picture was designed to capture Instagram users’ attention and drive awareness for Brow Drama. The second was used to demonstrate the product and how to use it. The aim of the third image was a combination of the first two.

The ads were run sequentially on separate days and served to the audience based on impressions but not interaction. For example, the viewer did not have to interact with the first and second ads to receive the third one, only for it to have left an impression in their Instagram feed.

Frequency was capped at three images to avoid saturation.

Instagram_Maybeline 1,2,3


The campaign drove a 16-point lift in brand awareness, a three-point lift in message association, and a more than two-fold increase in Maybelline Brow product sales.

“[Instagram] ads enable us to guarantee visibility of our brand posts to our followers but also the broader women in the 18-to-54 target audience who are not necessarily following us actively everyday but have an interest for beauty and exceptional visuals and videos,” says Christophe Eymery, head of digital and media, L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand.

He adds that in the long-term, the Instagram ads could transform into an emerging e-commerce opportunity with click-to-buy shortening the path from inspiration to purchase.

5. India

More than 90 percent of Instagrammers in India are under 30 years of age. They are also mobile-first users with high spending power, according to Instagram research. India is a growing market for the platform – with MAUs doubling in 2015 compared to a year prior.

According to Nielsen research, more than 50 percent of Indian Instagrammers follow brands to keep in touch with latest products, learn about deals and shop for products online. They also frequently purchase products and services from the brands they follow.

Nestlé, Paper Boat, Grofers, TrulyMadly and Sportskeeda were among the first brands in India to trial Instagram Ads.

Here’s an ad from one of India’s biggest sports websites, Sportskeeda:


The aim was to increase downloads of the Sportskeeda mobile app. Video was deemed the most favorable format after research was conducted into which types of content do well on both the Sportskeeda and other Instagram sports accounts. A short video was then created to demonstrate the variety of sports covered by the Sportskeeda app.


Porush Jain, chief executive officer and founder, Sportskeeda, says Instagram helped the company achieve a 30 percent increase in mobile app downloads and a higher percentage of loyal app users. These results were achieved through both precise targeting and high–quality video creative.


All in all, the results bode well for APAC brands using Facebook’s targeting capabilities to increase awareness and drive traffic to their sites through the use of Instagram ads.

The key for advertisers on a platform like Instagram is to create quality visual content that is customized to inspire users. It must be relevant and it must fit seamlessly, as well as authentically into the user experience. This will help to ensure that users remain receptive to ads – one of the platform’s biggest fears- and they continue to be a win-win for both brands and marketers.

Related reading

Man fly fishing