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Leo Burnett Company, Limited
175 Bloor Street East, North Tower
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R9
+416 925 5997

Margaret Arnold

SVP, Director, Human Resources

EVP David Kennedy


Lisa Morch

VP, Director of Knowledge Mgmt

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A Conversation With Instagram

With more than 300 million monthly active users uploading nearly 70 million photos per day, Instagram continually proves itself as one of the most popular and influential forms of social media on a global scale.

Recently, Instagram stopped by our Chicago headquarters (scroll above for photos from the event) to explore the latest and greatest in platform updates, ad roll-outs and more, as part of Leo Burnett’s Partner in Residence program. The series, headed by Chicago Chief Innovation Officer Mark Renshaw, features talks and presentations that connect employees with key representatives from major social platforms.

Mark had the chance to sit down with Instagram Creative Agency Partners Hope Cowan and Tyler Hellinge to chat expanded ad offerings, the importance of craft and more.


Mark Renshaw: Hope, you were formerly a Burnetter. How do you think your time as a planner within an agency setting has informed your role at Instagram?

Hope Cowan: As a planner, you study people, brands and culture; Instagram is a place where all three things collide. It also facilitates an emotional interaction that I’ve always found to be more useful in shaping creative and brand strategy.

MR: A question for both of you: Why do you think Instagram has had the success it has in such a short period of time?

Hope Cowan/Tyler Hellinge: To borrow from HumanKind (Leo Burnett’s philosophy that puts people at the center of everything the agency does), at Instagram we have a very clear and emotionally resonant purpose: to capture and share the world’s moments. As with any great purpose, everything we do ladders up to this. Instagram also benefits from two cultural and behavioral accelerants. The first is that images represent a universal language taking us places we’ve never been, placing us on the front lines of history, inspiring dreams and creativity, and, ultimately, transcending borders. The second is the world has gone mobile, and Instagram is an immersive mobile platform with a lightweight interface that’s easy to come in and out of.

MR: What extended opportunities do brands have with the new ad roll-outs?

HC/TH: There will be three important advancements:
1) Expanded ad offerings to include action-oriented formats, empowering people to do more on Instagram and, ultimately, bring people and businesses closer together.
2) More targeting capabilities to make ads more relevant.
3) It will be easier to buy ads on Instagram, enabling greater flexibility and efficiency.

MR: In order to succeed on the platform, what do brands need to remember – both with ad buys and posting to their own channels?

HC/TH: Although Instagram is a relatively young platform, we’ve executed over 500 campaigns. From this experience, we’ve learned several things.

The first is that branding is essential, but not in an overly intrusive way. Given the highly curated context of Instagram, it’s important that the brand be integrated in a fresh, creatively interesting way.

Which leads to the second lesson – a conceptual thread, or visual thematic, is also necessary to knit a story, versus pushing a post.

And the last point is that craft matters. People expect it within the Instagram environment. So all elements of the advertising should be well considered and deliberate; nothing is extraneous.

MR: As creative partners, how can agencies work better with Instagram to exhibit our craft on the platform? Do agencies have a leg up on other makers – or do you see the channel as more of a democratic space for creation and success?

HC/TH: Our goal for supporting brands is personalization at scale; stated more literally, delivering highly relevant content in a user’s feed. In an Instagram context, a user’s feed is filled with highly curated, beautifully executed content. Creative agencies have long been known to push the boundaries of such things, especially in terms of art direction. In some ways, Instagram represents an opportunity to return to the principles that made print great in the ’60s and ’70s. Simple, arresting, unexpected imagery and design. And in today’s world, enabling a responsive conversation with the viewer. Certainly, there are other makers pushing the boundaries and expectations of the platform, but we believe the talent and craft exists within agencies, and although it’s a new and evolving medium, the opportunity is there.

MR: Finally, in your opinion, how does Instagram allow brands to show who they are?

HC/TH: It’s a no-compromise environment that provides a place for brands to do their best work. The expectation and desire from users is that a brand will offer a strong, visual POV, and we believe that’s creatively liberating for most brands.