Beware: Instagram's Newest Feature Tempts Brands To Stuff Your Feed Full Of Boring TV Ads

When photo-sharing app Instagram added video in June 2013, users couldn’t import footage that was already stored on their smartphones: they had to shoot it within the app.
That’s now changed. Instagram rolled out version 4.1 of its app for iPhone and Android smartphones yesterday, and the main new feature is the ability to import video from the device’s library.

“Starting today you can upload videos from your phone’s media library and share those moments to Instagram regardless of when they were captured,” explains the company’s blog post.

“Once you select the video clip you’d like to import, you can trim it down to the exact part you like best. We’ve also made it so that you can choose how you square-crop your clip so you can keep the action front and center.”

This is mostly good news for Instagram users. For example, anyone shooting videos at a gig or sporting event with no Wi-Fi and/or dodgy 3G reception (i.e. most gigs and sporting events) can now film at the event and edit and upload to Instagram later over a more reliable connection.

The new feature also has its risks for brands and media companies using Instagram, however. Particularly the former, who may be tempted to take their 15-second TV ads and slap them up on Instagram, rather than thinking harder about the nature of the app and its community, and creating clips for it specifically.

Instagram’s decision to make its maximum video length 15 seconds was arguably taken with a view to giving brands a format that would feel familiar, but when the feature first launched, some agencies welcomed the lack of video-importing as an encouragement to be more creative in their use of the app.

“As a consumer, the best news about the launch of Instagram video is that you can’t import video — you have to shoot it in the app,” Rufus Leonard’s head of innovation Iain Miller told The Guardian at the time.

“Hopefully this will mean brands will try and understand what the medium is really good for, and create great new stuff – rather than lazily applying a filter to their existing TV ads.”

Now the temptation is there to do exactly that. But I suspect Instagram users will vote with their Like buttons for videos that are more interesting and creatively ambitious, spurring smarter brands and agencies to avoid such laziness.

Also notable in Instagram 4.1 is the addition of video to the version of the app for smartphones running the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich software. A significant change, given that according to Google’s own stats, 22.5% of Android owners are still running Ice Cream Sandwich on their devices.

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