- Instagram spends most of its global marketing budget on targeting teens, The New York Times reports.
- The Facebook-owned app reportedly sees a loss of teen users as an "existential threat."
- The new report follows revelations that Instagram's own research found the app is bad for teens' mental health.
Instagram is so desperate to keep a foothold with teenage users that it spends the majority of its marketing budget targeting teens with ads, according to a new report.
New documents obtained by The New York Times show that, since 2018, almost all of Instagram's global marketing budget has gone towards showing ads to teenagers. The app's annual ad budget is slated for $390 million this year, according to the report.
The Facebook-owned app is fixated on maintaining its teen user base, which it sees as vital to its growth going forward. More than 40% of Instagram's users are 22 years old and younger, and teens in the US spend 50% more time on Instagram then on Facebook, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
Instagram could now be losing teens to competitors – 35% of teenagers said Snapchat was their favorite social media app and 30% said their favorite was TikTok, while only 22% of teens ranked Instagram as their favorite, according to a Piper Sandler survey published last month.
The company now sees shrinking teen user base as an "existential threat," according to the New York Times report, and is directing a firehose of ad spending at the narrow teenage demographic. The company reportedly emphasized 13- to 15-year-olds in its marketing.
An Instagram spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
The new report comes after a wave of blowback against Instagram and Facebook following a bombshell Wall Street Journal investigation that revealed internal Instagram research that suggests the app has negative effects on teens' mental health. One in three teen girls said that, when they felt bad about their body, Instagram made them feel worse, according to Instagram's internal research published in the WSJ report.
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri downplayed that internal research in response to the WSJ investigation, saying he believes Instagram's effect on teens' mental health is "quite small." But following the WSJ report, Instagram announced that it would pause work on an app it was building for children under the age of 13 known as "Instagram Kids."
Facebook has since come under fire from lawmakers, who grilled executives last month over how its products affect teens.
"Instagram is that first childhood cigarette meant to get teens hooked early," Massachusetts senator Ed Markey said during a September hearing.