Historically, the marketing budgets of wine producers were always too small to permit buying adverts, but social media has made advertising not only affordable but much more effectively targeted. Instagram is reputedly one of the cheapest platforms, starting at around $5 for 1,000 impressions, and allowing detailed targeting to ensure your adverts reach the most receptive audience.
So over the last month, I have been screen-grabbing the adverts that appear in my Instagram feed to consider their effectiveness. (Click on any of these images to expand them.)
Firstly, I collected a few non-wine adverts, which are presumably in my feed because I meet general criteria based on age, gender and location, possibly targeted because I've shared posts about food and music.
These all have a straightforward message, a simple image, a clear call to action and a financial incentive for clicking.
Next, I collected a few non-wine alcohol adverts.
These are already a bit more vague, with no financial incentive to click and messages that seem a bit 'so what'. While the lager image is clear enough, the gin bottle is too small to see the branding, and the saké photograph is too busy. For both those adverts, the call to action is to 'view Instagram profile' - but what's the benefit of that? Why would I want to see more uninteresting photos, and what benefit does the advertiser really get from increased profile views?
So, can the wine industry do any better? Here's what I found.
Wanderlust are clearly trying to steal customers from Naked Wines for their own online retail business which, incidentally, seems to offer a very similar ethos:
While their logo is very visible, the background image is rather generic, and the call to 'sign up' without any explanation of the benefits or a financial incentive seems premature.
Next come three different approaches from individual wine brands.
The Blossom Hill advert, clearly targeted for Wednesdays, gets the social media style right, with a few hashtags, a clear, appealing image and a straightforward message about their new cuvée. Dark Horse Wine is a Gallo brand with an advert timed to coincide with National Barbecue week - hence the hashtag. The message is clear but both this and the Blossom Hill advert are missing an opportunity to offer some kind of tangible engagement, such as a discount voucher.
The third advert is a much smaller scale, more 'homemade' style which represents the reality for many wineries without large marketing budgets. The photo is a backlit, badly composed image without clear label visibility and the text is advertising their appearance at a trade fair in London. The relevance of this is very limited, although at least the 'learn more' link does at least redirect to their website.
Then there were three adverts for wine-related services.
These clearly demonstrate the importance of getting the level of information right. The Wine Butler advert has an image that appears to be promoting a wine delivery service, but there's no text to entice anyone to press the learn more button. Fuse Concierge is much more targeted, with a tempting message for the engaged wine consumer and a slick, professional photograph. Winecdote perhaps suffers from providing too much information - especially with the hashtags, the sheer length of text is not conducive to the fast-scrolling style that most people practice with social media.
It may be that there are restrictions on offering financial incentives on alcoholic products via social media, but it seems to me that the wine adverts I've captured from Instagram could make more of the opportunity. The best adverts combine a single, eye-catching image, a brief and enticing message with a few targeted hashtags and some kind of immediate incentive to click.
But at least these wine companies are already taking advantage of the opportunity that Instagram offers to reach thousands of potential customers for a relatively low price.