It's Not Just You -- Instagram Is Testing Unskippable Ads and It's Awful

Instagram's latest advertising experiment won't let you scroll any further until the ad is over. Users are already annoyed.

Joe Hindy
3 min read
Instagram logo seen on a mobile phone
James Martin/CNET

If you've been scrolling Instagram lately and found yourself faced with an ad you can't skip over, you aren't going crazy: Instagram appears to have been testing the new ads over the last few days to a small number of users, and you might be a part of the testing group. 

For now, it seems there's only one spot where unskippable ads happen, and it's when you're scrolling through your feed, according to complaints on Reddit and X. Occasionally, you'll be interrupted by an advertisement that won't let you scroll past until the timer at the bottom has expired. You can then continue as normal until the next one hits. These forced breaks are typically around 10 seconds long. 

Instagram owner Meta didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but the social network told TechCrunch that it's "always testing formats that can drive value for advertisers" and would make an announcement if the ad breaks became permanent. 

The ad breaks would join the swath of sponsored posts and ads that already exist in Instagram's feed, reels and stories. However, none of those are quite as disruptive to Instagram's usage as the ad breaks, which seem to stop you in your tracks until the timer ends. 

A Reddit user also tapped the info button next to the timer for more information about the feature. "Ad breaks are a new way of seeing ads on Instagram," it says. "Sometimes, you may need to view an ad before you can keep browsing." 

Not happy about ad breaks

To the surprise of no one, people who have been in the testing group strongly dislike the ad breaks, and justifiably so. They are highly intrusive and remove your ability to scroll through the social network at your leisure. Many people reported using Instagram less often to avoid the ads or closing the app as soon as an ad appears. 

It also comes in an era where more services are adding advertising back into the fold. Amazon Prime Video integrated ad breaks into its existing platform with an option to pay even more to remove them. Other streaming services have adopted this model as well.  YouTube has been using unskippable ads for years and is currently at war with ad blockers to keep them there. 

Instagram in 2024

Instagram has been putting out a lot of changes in 2024. Among them are Instagram Reveals, huge changes to DMs and an increased emphasis on Reels and recommendations over regular photo posts to keep younger audiences interested and compete with TikTok. Meta has also integrated niceties like letting people opt out of having their posts used to train AI

Most of the changes are fairly user-forward, like the new Instagram Story frames and turning off read receipts. That makes the ad breaks a curiosity because it's a step backward in usability compared with most of the other changes, which add more functionality. However, for now at least, the ad breaks are just a test. We'll have to wait and see if Instagram makes them permanent.