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Instagram is rolling out the ads that Snapchat thinks are 'creepy'

Instagram is getting retargeting ads.

Instagram / Nordstrom

Instagram has a new plan for making money: Show users ads that feature products they looked at online, but never actually purchased.

The new ad types — known in the industry as retargeting ads, but what Facebook calls dynamic ads — essentially track your internet browsing and app usage history, then show you ads based on the things you've previously looked at.

More specifically, they're used for shopping, giving retailers a chance to upload their product catalogue to Facebook, then show you that pair of pants or sneakers that you admired, but didn't actually buy.

If that sets your spidey sense tingling, you're not alone. These are the same ads that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has sworn off for being too invasive. He called them "creepy."

Facebook and Google can make good money selling these ads, though, which is why Facebook is expanding its product to include travel-related retargeting, too. That means that if you browse a travel advertiser's website, or book a flight through a site that also offers hotels, you might be retargeted to actually book a hotel for your upcoming trip.

Facebook (and eventually Instagram) will start by suggesting hotels only, but will eventually include flights or even other events and entertainment related to travel.

Why push these kinds of ads to users? Execs for both Facebook and Instagram say they want to drive more shopping for ad partners, particularly on mobile devices, where more people are starting to shop. Retargeting people based on the products they've already shown interest in is a good way to do that.

This doesn't mean these ads are always accurate. One of the challenges of retargeting is what's known as cross-device tracking, or knowing that even though I looked at shoes on my phone, I later bought them on my laptop or tablet.

Facebook is in a better place than others to figure this out, though, says Maz Sharafi, director for monetization product marketing for Facebook. That's because people often log in to Facebook on multiple devices, offering a trackable identity.

The new ads will start to roll out to Instagram Tuesday, with travel ads coming to Facebook the same day. Travel retargeting will come to Instagram sometime later.

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