Director of Client Success, 7+ Years Experience Creating Remarkable Marketing Experiences
October 28th, 2019
Instagram story ads have been a hot advertising channel for digital marketers and paid media specialists in the last few months -- and for good reason.
Aside from the fact that Instagram story ads provide an authentic way for brands to reach their audiences, as of January 2019, 500 million people were using Instagram Stories daily — that's a whopping 250% increase from 2017.
So, today, I want to help you capitalize on this very profitable paid social advertising opportunity by showcasing Instagram story ads examples to inspire your next campaign.
But first, there are a few basics I want to review with you all.
What are Instagram story ads?
Instagram story ads are simply brand advertisements that are shown in a user's stories feed.
They're 15-second (maximum) blurbs of an advertisement that can be either video, slides, or a static image. These ads say “Sponsored” under the brand name and will have a call to action on the bottom of the screen, encouraging viewers to take some sort of next steps -- think “Learn More,” “Install Now,” or even “Shop Now.”
Because they’re placed in-between the stories that your friends and connections have opted to share, they feel more natural than other ads that can pop up.
Think about this example
Have you been on Facebook and decided to watch a video that’s in your newsfeed but in the middle of it, you’re forced to watch a short commercial before your video resumes?
This unwelcome disruption can cause viewers to keep scrolling and not even watch the rest of the video they were initially interested in.
Because Instagram story ads are already placed in a space where Instagram users are expecting to watch short, unrelated clips, it doesn’t feel like they’re watching a commercial. It feels more like a clip that a brand shared, like their friends are.
Okay, now that we’ve got the basics out of the way of what they are and how you can watch them, let’s take a look at some of the most engaging and successful ads we’ve seen.
Instagram has a mountain of success stories for story advertising, but this one in particular caught my eye.
Deezer Brazil, the first music streaming platform in France, wanted to increase app installs and decided to use Instagram Story Ads, among automatic placement across Instagram, Facebook, and Audience Network.
They used existing video content they already had created but adapted it to fit Instagram Story Ads best practices. This was especially smart since using the same creative across all platforms helps with brand awareness and recall.The ads also were targeted towards audiences that were already familiar with and using online services such as streaming, delivery services, and so on.
According to Instagram, Deezer saw the following ROI:
The one-month February 2019 campaign successfully achieved:
52% lower subscriber acquisition cost after adding Instagram Stories to automatic placements; and
2X increase in conversion rate with automatic placements (compared to previous campaigns that did not use automatic placements).
What I like most about this Audible ad is that it is very explicit about the value their platform provides.
And what I mean by that is that the copy included isn’t passive like, “Listen on Audible Today” but rather, “Listen only on Audible,” showcasing quickly with a single word choice the exclusivity of their product.
By just adding that simple three-letter word to their copy (“only”), they’re showing that this content is exclusive to Audible and if you’re interested, you’re going to have to listen on their app.
They make it crystal clear that your next steps can only be going on Audible and signing up with them.
I know this is kind of cheating since Facebook owns Instagram but I have to give credit where credit is due.
\Facebook has been aggressively promoting their groups. I’ve seen numerous television commercials for Facebook Groups (‘Game Day’ is my personal favorite) and now they’re infiltrating my Instagram Stories; however, they’re dang good ads.
This Instagram Story Ad was simple enough -- it showed this woman shaking her head back and forth in slow motion with changing text overlays that said things such as:“For jewel tone streaks.”“For help! I went green.”“For people who get bored.”And while simple, it showed exactly what type of discussions would be had in this group and if the group would be valuable and/or interesting to whoever was reading it. Beautiful imagery, simple text, and straight forward messaging is what made this Instagram Story Ad a home run for me.
Admittedly, I had never heard of Dagne Dover before scouring my Instagram Stories feed for ads but they caught my eye with their use of video.
Unlike Facebook Groups, they didn’t use video to just be beautiful but rather as an educational tool showcasing how their bags can be seamlessly integrated into a busy lifestyle, like if you were running across the airport trying to get to your gate.
For me, what makes this a world-class example of how to use an Instagram Story Ad is that I’m absolutely in their target market so their targeting was spot-on but also it shows how the bag could be used in real-life.
When you go to the website, you see gorgeous bags but it’s not the same experience. I like the look of the bags in still photography but I LOVE seeing exactly how the bags can fit on top of my suitcase handle.
This use of video really showcases benefits of purchasing a bag from this company.
So, it’s extremely smart of Thrive Market to put the fact that their customers can shop by their diet front and center in their Instagram story ads This shows their target audience that Thrive Market knows that shopping for diets can be a big pain point so they’ve taken the guesswork out of it.
They know their audience, the associated pain points, and they’ve made it extremely clear in only a few seconds that they understand and they’ve solved a problem.
Thrive Market could’ve taken any other approach but they decided to speak to the one-third of Americans who want help staying on track.
This Instagram story ad didn’t use bright colors or anything particularly flashy to get my attention — yet, I stopped and took notice.
What made this a world-class example of a great ad was that it was appealing in a sleek, straight forward, I-want-to-look-like-this way.
In the video clip, the woman was walking and as she was taking steps, the names of the clothing articles came on the screen one by one. It was done beautifully but what I enjoyed was that it took the guess work out of what I was looking at.
Many Instagram story ads that are promoting clothing or clothing brands just show a wonderfully dressed person with the name of their company.
I’ve gone to those websites to find the specific shirt or shoe the model is wearing and if I search for more than two minutes, I’ll leave and chances are I won’t come back. With this company, I know exactly what I’d search on their site to find exactly what I’m looking for. High-five for customer experience.
This Instagram story ad could fall under a few of these categories; however, I selected “brand awareness” because the copy in this ad was a strong message to what Thrive Causemetics stands for — “clean beauty.”
Sure, there’s other text on there and it’s great that they’re saying you’ll get awesome results but I guarantee moving forward, you’ll think of what they stand for: products free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates and fragrance.
The level of awareness around who they are and what they stand for that they’ve brought to potential customers before customers even visit their site is amazing.
This isn’t necessarily “the best” example of an Instagram story ad, as it feels very commercial-like; however, I wanted to include it for a few reasons.
The offer is really clear with the copy. If you sign up with them, you get eight free meals and free shipping. There’s a strong incentive to take the next step and actually sign up with them if you’re in the market for a meal kit delivery service.
It also uses Jessica Alba and, whether we like it or not, influencers are called influencers for a reason.
Now, I wish the video was filmed in a way that felt more natural and raw instead of something that could be used as a television commercial but by using a well-known and trusted face for the ad, it’s going to cause people to stop.
Like most Instagram story ads that focus on services, this is another one that puts benefits front and center. We’ve already discussed concise, strong messaging and enticing offers (and this ad has both) but what I like about this is that does a lot WHILE setting the right atmosphere.
It’s a tea company and while tea can be fun and exciting, most of us opt for it when we want to be calm or relaxed and this company knows it.They didn’t try to throw bright colors into the video or imagery. They kept it calm and serene while getting their point across and I appreciate that.
Okay, this one was cool. When you think of Bed Bath and Beyond, you don’t usually think of “sleep experts” but they were aiming to change your mind with this Instagram story ad.
I really liked that they not only made the imagery and the pun cute but I really liked that they’re saying that you can engage to find your specific sleep problem and they have solutions available for you.
It would’ve been an easy-out for them to just say that they have bedding for everyone but by creating content like this, it makes me feel like they have exactly what I need to sleep better — not some generic pillow that’s supposed to help.
Booking a hotel room isn’t something everyone does all of the time and I love that Holiday Inn recognizes this. When you book a hotel room, it’s often for an event — you’re going on a trip, you’re going to see a loved one, you’re celebrating a late night out at a wedding, and so on.
You book a hotel room because there’s likely a memorable occasion that’s outside of your comfort zone and this Instagram story ad (and the content promotion associated with it) brings that to the forefront.
This ad showcases people reuniting and hugging, teams going out of town for games, and other video clips of emotion. Once you go to their site (because I had to know more) they do have the hashtag #BeThereIRL showcased and a feed of photos that are using it.
This was a standout ad for me because it made me think about the reasons to book a hotel room, it gave me the warm and fuzzies, and this is the first ad on my list that made me go to the website to learn about how it’s being used.
Best practices for creating world-class Instagram story ads
The first thing is deciding which type of Instagram story ads you want to move forward with. The first option is a native story ad and the second is a standard placement.
Native story ad vs. standard placement on Instagram
A native story ad is an ad that was made specifically for Instagram story ads. The dimensions are correct, it doesn’t have a lot of text or color bands, and it feels more natural.
If the story ad doesn’t necessarily feel like it was meant to be there (the content is square-shaped vs. rectangular, there’s a ton of text, and so on), then the ad creator likely selected their one ad to go across multiple platforms.
That’s when you know they checked off a box that said “standard placement.”
Which type performs better?
Based on Ali’s experience, she explained that native story ads perform better than standard placement ads. That’s likely because it feels more natural to the user and less like a commercial since it was created specifically for the Instagram platform. That means that users are likely to engage with this more than something that feels unnatural.
However, it’s worth noting that standard placement ads do provide one strong benefit — polling options.
If you use the standard placement option, you can add a poll to your creative and not only does that naturally encourage users to engage and select the option they feel strongly about, but the creator of the ad actually gets the real results from the poll.
As a marketer, this can help you figure out what features or products resonate most with your target audience and it can also help when it comes to retargeting. When someone engages with a poll, you can retarget them later by engagement to fill up the middle of your funnel.
Next, consider Instagram story ad format
We’ve found that companies get fantastic results from native Instagram story ad videos — think an “unboxing” or other video content that’s engaging and authentic. This is due to the fact that, as a user watching Instagram stories, it feels natural in this environment.
The second most successful ad format is slides.
When you have slides coming in and out of the frame, there’s still movement to keep the viewer engaged and interested in what’s going on. These options are still better than having a single image. A single image typically does not perform as well because it does not keep the viewer interested in what’s happening and they’ll likely swipe through your ad.
Authenticity wins in Instagram story ads
The last thing to take into consideration when creating an Instagram story ad is to make sure that it feels natural and raw. Something really over-produced will feel like an advertisement and most people don’t like to be advertised to when they’re on their social networks.
By creating an ad that’s meant for the platform (using the right dimensions) and has a few lines of text and perhaps even a few stickers if it feels right will help your ad to feel more natural and less disruptive.