Instagram is testing unskippable ads - but what if they're actually good for you?

Here's how unskippable Instagram ads could backfire on Meta and help you get your life back.
Written by Don Reisinger, Contributing Writer
New Instagram feed feature
Instagram/Adam Mosseri

Instagram is testing a new feature that would make it impossible for users to skip an ad. And it may just be the way some Instagram-obsessed users solve their addiction.

Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch on Monday that it's testing a new feature that requires users to view an ad before they can continue browsing content on the platform. The ads show up while users are viewing video content on the service and include a countdown timer. Once the timer hits zero, users can then skip the ad and keep browsing.

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"We're always testing formats that can drive value for advertisers," a Meta spokesperson told TechCrunch. "As we test and learn, we will provide updates should this test result in any formal product changes."

Users across Reddit and X spotted the feature over the weekend, saying that they couldn't skip ads on Instagram when they were scrolling through their feeds. The unskippable ads also come with an info button that, when clicked, provided more detail on the feature.

"You're seeing an ad break," the info button read, according to a Reddit poster. "Ad breaks are a new way of seeing ads on Instagram. Sometimes you may need to view an ad before you keep browsing."

Since Instagram said it's testing the feature, it's unclear whether it'll be rolled out to all users and become the norm on the platform or if the company ultimately scuttles the idea. But it's no surprise it's trying it out. YouTube currently displays unskippable ads on its platform when viewers are using the free version. Instagram may be trying to follow suit to appeal to advertisers who aren't necessarily pleased with Instagram users being able ot easily skip their ads.

But it may have another consequence for users. Already, people who have seen the unskippable ad feature have complained, saying that it disrupts their experience of using the app. It's possible that if Instagram rolls it out globally that there will be even greater user outcry. It's perhaps even more possible that it so disrupts the viewing experience so much that users click out of the app to avoid these unskippable ads.

It's no secret that you can get lost in a never-ending scroll across Instagram, checking out Stories, Reels, and feeds. And before you know it, you've been scrolling for several minutes and lost time. But ads that disrupt that experience and force you out of that never-ending scroll could help you realize what you're doing -- and get off the app. Indeed, by satisfying advertisers, Instagram could unintentionally disrupt the zoned-out scrolling that keeps users engaged with the platform -- and attracting advertisers in the first place.

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But perhaps that's why Instagram is only testing the feature now. The company wants to know how users will respond to unskippable ads and it'll undoubtedly decide, based on the data it collects, to either use them or ditch them depending on what will deliver the most engagement and revenue opportunity.

Instagram didn't say how long it'll be testing the feature or when it could make a final decision. But don't be surprised if you see unskippable ads on the platform as you scroll through content.

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