Instagram Stories: The perfect ad platform

4 August 2020

How often do you find yourself getting frustrated by, and dismissing, adverts? Clicking ‘Skip Ad’ on YouTube, paying for the premium version of apps like Spotify to avoid marketing, exiting website popups without signing up for more info.

Many of us are inherently programmed to avoid advertising at all costs. Yet, how many of us can also say we’ve spent hours of our lives watching branded content on Instagram Stories and not batted an eyelid? I know I have.

Will Instagram Story ads help my brand?

It just feels so innocent and easy, right…? You go to see what your friend has been up to that day and without realising, you’ve spent 20 minutes of your evening tapping through 27 people’s Instagram Stories, watching 6 brand adverts and swiping up to browse some random influencer’s favourite beauty product. You never once felt like you were being force-fed content.


Who is using Instagram Stories?

According to the photo sharing platform itself, Instagram has;

  • 500 million daily active Story users worldwide
  • An organic reach of over 5%
  • A reported 2-3x more engagement than regular feed content

With more than one third of the most viewed Stories being posted by businesses, it’s evident that brands are capitalising on the huge opportunity to connect with their audience. And with such a great user experience and click through rate, they are certainly using the platform to their advantage.

But what makes a good Instagram Story? And what makes a compelling Story ad that will achieve a strong ROI?

To take a closer look, we’ve rounded up some of the ad campaigns which we feel epitomise the attributes of the ‘perfect story’, highlighting certain techniques they’ve used to capitalise on the channel.

Creating a successful Story ad campaign

The Four Us

In order to communicate the correct message through your ad, it is important to understand your value proposition and how you want your audience to feel when viewing it. The best Story campaigns think about communicating the following 4 aspects:

  • Is it useful – will my audience see the value in what I am advertising?
  • Is it unique – am I promising a unique benefit which they cannot find elsewhere?
  • Is it urgent – am I encouraging viewers to act now?
  • Is it uplifting – does it make my audience feel something and, as a result, want to see more?

For example, Bolt Food’s Ad does a really great job of answering all of the above.

  • Yes – it offers me an opportunity to have food delivered to me when I am hungry and not in the mood to cook.
  • Yes – it’s really cheap! What other brand offers me such a great deal?
  • Yes – I should swipe up to download the app now.
  • Yes – it makes me feel a desire towards food. It entices me in and I want to know more.

Overall, it ticks all the boxes in an effortless and simple way.

Telling a story through visuals

Instagram is all about the visuals, so let the imagery do the talking.

When designing your Instagram Story Ad, it is important to avoid being too text heavy. People want the important information, but they don’t want to have to read too much. While overlay and the odd subtitle can be useful for communicating a couple of points, overcramming words in simply detracts from the creative. And with only a few seconds on the screen, your message will just get lost.

Instead, focus on the key points and use a maximum of 5-8 words placed towards the centre and bottom of the screen. Avoid being overly promotional in the wording, but instead draw people to a ‘swipe up’ button for more information.

This video Ad by Netflix does a really great job of this. It puts the brand name front and centre and relies on the imagery within the video to communicate what Netflix offers.

Netflix logo on tv with blue lighting

Stimulating multiple senses

Around 60% of users watch Stories with the sound on. Hence, it is important to consider tapping into different senses, using a mix of engaging visuals and captivating audio. Sound effects, music or voice-overs can really add another dynamic to the feel of the add and capture attention through a multi-sense experience.

Having said that, evidently, 40% of users watch Stories without sound, and as such, it is important not to rely solely on the perfect theme tune to set the tone. Make headlines BOLD. Use dynamic and powerful imagery. Create moving animations that set the mood and draw viewers in.

We love this Ad from Calm. Whether you watch it with sound on or off it speaks to the viewer, evoking an emotional response through the heated flame visuals and crackling fire sounds.

Showing off the full range

You don’t always need to focus an ad on one product or offering. Carousel ads are a great way to highlight multiple pieces of information or collections.

You can have up to three different cards for Stories Ads, each card featuring a specific product or group of products. These are turned into a slideshow that plays automatically with a call to action across the bottom. It’s the perfect way to showcase your range of expertise without forcing too much information into one frame.

Whilst this was not actually a Story, we love the concept from Refinery29, who shared snippets of information on each slide of their carousel to make sure the content remained clear and easy to read. Now that’s how you keep people engaged and reading more.

Not being afraid to be bold

With thousands of brands capitalising on the success of Stories, you need to do something to stand out. So don’t always give your customers what they expect!

Whilst earlier we talked about communicating all the key pieces of information to the viewer, there can also be opportunities whereby you deliberately withhold information. Evidence suggests that when information gaps exist, readers experience a sense of suspense, which makes them want more. In essence, questions make people interested. Interest leads to click-through.

We love this ad by Noom. The surprising imagery quickly grabs users’ attention and draws them into the ad. You might not know what Noom is, but you want to know why is someone smashing up their eggs. And you’ll click on the link to find out. It’s clever how the slo-mo boomerang provides added suspense and intrigue too. It’s a great technique to keep users watching longer.

Advertising your brand to customers in a discrete, but effective way can be a hard and arduous job for any business. Instagram Stories offers a wealth of opportunity because of the integrated nature of the channel, positioning content in and amongst followers’ posts in a very intuitive way. When done well, it’s easy for us to sift through multiple ads without even feeling like we are being targeted. The best ads focus on showing the viewer exactly what they are being offered, playing on different senses and creating an air of intrigue. They put brand front and centre and don’t shy away from being direct. They give you no option but to want to find out more.

New york city Instagram story

If you’re not sure how you can take your Instagram advertising to the next level, but you know it’s something you’ll benefit from doing, get in touch with the team here at Wagada who can help.