Services & Software

The preview is over: Instagram ads are here

With the first official brand-sponsored update being delivered to US users, the time has come to say goodbye to an ad-free Instagram feed.

Instagram will start running its first official advertisements Friday with a sponsored photo coming courtesy of fashion brand Michael Kors, the Facebook-owned company told CNET.

The ad, which features a watch from the brand's Timeless collection, marks the end of a preview period designed to acclimate the service's 150 million active users to the idea of seeing photo and video advertisements in their previously pristine feeds.

Members in the US will see the Michael Kors image, pictured above, even if they don't follow the brand on Instagram. The ad will include a sponsored label to denote that it's a paid-for placement. Audiences can click to hide it or provide feedback if they don't appreciate the ad's content.

After three years of being ad-free, Instagram is taking a highly curatorial approach -- read: careful -- to monetizing its business. The service, which sold to Facebook for $1 billion last year, said it plans to deliver magazine-quality advertisements that it hopes audiences will enjoy.

The official launch comes just days after Facebook reported earnings from a stellar third-quarter that included more than $2 billion in revenue and saw 49 percent of advertising revenue coming from its mobile products.

Though fully recovered from last year's stock drama, Facebook is still under enormous pressure to prove that it can grow revenue and sustain engagement. One area giving some investors pause is Facebook's teen-appeal problem. As a popular social-networking destination for tweens and teens, Instagram looks like Facebook's solution to dwindling attention from youngsters. Though ads in the popular app bring the promise of more revenue, they could also send this all-important audience fleeing to competing applications.

To start, Instagram's other initial advertisers will also include Adidas, Ben & Jerry's, Burberry, General Electric, Levi's, Lexus, Macy's, PayPal, and Starwood. Facebook declined to provide timing on when users would see ads from these brands.