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At Instagram, it’s no longer hip to be square

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Until now, if you wanted to advertise on Instagram, you were kind of boxed in.

“You needed to receive prior approval from Instagram and have rather lofty budgets in order to be appearing on their platform,” says Nate Carter, managing director with eEffective, an ad agency trading desk.

This fall, Instagram is planning to open its app to all advertisers. And that’s one reason the company is changing its format beyond the traditional square box. It wants to be more flexible, in part, so advertisers can repurpose the ads they use on TV.

Already, one of every five pictures and videos posted on Istagram is not square. There are a number of apps designed to get around Instagram’s format.

“People have been trying to game the system already,” says Wally Krantz, an executive creative director at the branding firm Landor.

Legend has it that Instagram uses the square because Kevin Systrom, the company’s founder, used a Holga camera in college that took square photos.

“Traditionally, if you think of Rolleiflex cameras and Hasselblads,” Krantz says, the images were square.

Some are already regretting Instagram’s move away from the classic format. Bret Hansen, a creative director with global branding firm siegel+gale, says fiddling with that look could be risky. “By changing it up, they’re kind of diluting their brand image a little bit.”

Still, says Carter, if Instagram manages to bring in more advertisers by dropping its box, it stands to make billions. It’s pretty simple, he says,  “it’s no longer hip to be square.”

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