This must stop: Terrible Instagram Story ads


Stories are quickly set to take over your Social Feeds as the most used format on social media.

You’ve got Instagram Stories, Snapchat, WhatsApp Stories, Facebook Stories...

You get the picture.

Considering consumer attention is shifting towards Stories, and Facebook hits peak ad-load in the newsfeed, advertising on Instagram Stories is the next big opportunity for brands.

Unfortunately, most brands are absolutely blowing it when it comes to launching effective and impactful ads on this new platform.

And most of them don’t even realize it! Let me explain.

You’ve probably noticed these HORRIBLE looking ads while swiping through your Stories. All of a sudden, it seems like 90%+ of Story ads look very out of place.

The reason?  Facebook recently made it a lot easier to advertise on Stories, but the result is that the ads look, well, like ads!

So today we're going to talk about why you can't be lazy when it comes to Instagram Stories, and the importance of creating customized content for your Story ads.

Auto-placing ads in Instagram Stories is a big no-no

 Bad Instagram ad

A few months ago, Facebook rolled out a very sneaky new option when it comes to auto-placing ad creative within Instagram Stories. Under the "Placements" section in Ads Manager, Facebook auto-checks the Stories placement now along with Instagram Feeds.

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 11.10.50 AMIf you need a refresher on navigating Facebook Business Manager, make sure to check out this post.

It makes sense why they’re doing it. Facebook and Instagram feeds are close to being maxed out with the amount of ads they can run, and Facebook needs to keep increasing revenue. Plus there's a lot of available ad inventory in Stories.

The issue is that they don’t require custom creative for what is a very different ad unit than the feeds.

It doesn't have to be a specific image.

It doesn't have to be a specific size.

All videos, any creative, any copy... They’re basically saying, "Check the box and we're going to run it in Stories" without a second though on how it will look.

The problem with bad Instagram Story creative

The problem with this is that Instagram Story creative is SO, so different than Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Yes, you want Facebook creative and Instagram creative to look different, but at the end of the day they’re a similar version of one another.

But an Instagram Story ad, that's a totally different beast.

And with this new auto-placement, you've got images that don't fit the platform at all.

They don't fill the whole screen. You've got way too much copy. You've got videos that don't fill the whole screen, and it instantly takes you out of the feed.

It instantly screams ad.

Why pay to run crappy ads

This is not organic content, this is not free.

If you're going to spend money, you want to make it meaningful. You want to make it have an impact. You want it to sell.

And unfortunately, this new auto-placement is doing the opposite.

“Everyone thinks that all advertising increases sales to some degree. Not true. The wrong ads can actually reduce sales of a product.” - Ogilvy

Instagram Story ads should look like... Instagram Stories

Bottom line - If you're going to advertise on Stories, your ad should look like an Instagram Story.

Whether it's really polished, with all of your branding included, or it's native and a little bit more authentic to the platform, either way will work.

But you don't ever want somebody swiping through and then stopping to grimace because it looks like their like Aunt Rhonda did a terrible job posting a photo.

Let's look at some more examples of ads you should be avoiding.

Instagram story ads

You're seeing Green Chef, Patron, and even Sugarfina running bad Instagram Story ads, and that's just to name a few!

Bad video ads look even worse

There's also a lot of brands that are running poorly-sized video within the Story feed as well, like the example below.

olive wren home

This video from Olive Wren Home could have been a really effective Story ad if they had just taken that extra step to size it appropriately and use one concise piece of copy. Two relatively small steps, but they make a big impact.

Don't underestimate the power of aesthetics!

And don't underestimate the power of aesthetics on your customer.

It makes a difference, and customers are not as numb to good design as we think they might be.

They're a lot more likely to swipe up rather than swipe through on an Instagram Story ad that feels authentic, one that feels native, or even one that just feels appropriately sized for the platform.

We live by the motto that social advertising creative should seamlessly blend into the platform that it’s running on. And an ad that looks very out of place destroys trust with a customer and can kill the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Profitable Instagram Story ads

Ultimately, the question remains: why does this matter?

And the reason is that:

  1. You want your ads to be as profitable as possible. Ads that stick out like a sore thumb and scream ad rarely perform well on Stories.
  2. Now that this auto-placement exists, it’s going to open up the market for tons businesses (many who don't have the creative manpower to create Instagram Stories ads). So it's more important now more than ever to invest in the proper creative.

Fix your ads in one click

Now, I do know from experience that Facebook Ads Manager has been auto-checking this ‘Stories’ box within a lot of ad sets. We've even found this before with our own campaigns.

One of my Account Managers will set up a campaign not realizing that that box is checked, and lo and behold, we see creative running in the Stories feed that shouldn't be there.

So if you find that this is happening to you, just be sure to add it to your pre-launch checklist so your team knows to un-checke this option before hitting Publish.

Instagram stories

Make sure to select one or the other, never both!

They should be targeting Story placements in separate ad sets with separate creative designed specifically for Stories.

On the design side, a few easy fixes to make sure you don’t succumb to the Story epidemic would be:

  1. Hiring a freelancer to resize your creative for the Stories format (9:16 aspect ratio)
  2. Adding another task to your designer's checklist before they ship off the campaign creative to make sure they’ve created separate variations for Stories


Don’t do Stories if you can’t do it right

An example of a simple-to-make, but great looking Story ad from Revolve.

This could be an unpopular opinion, but if you can't invest in the proper specifications and sizing for Instagram Story creative, just don't do it.

Wait until you have the right team or agency to do it right, and stick with Instagram and Facebook for now.

Now, go check your campaigns to make sure the Stories placement isn’t auto checked!

Get more from us: Want to see how Biddyco can help eCommerce brands scale their paid traffic? Tak a look at a few of our Facebook advertising case studies here.

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Guest post: Ben Philabaum

Written by Guest post: Ben Philabaum

Ben is the CEO of Biddyco, an agency that helps eCommerce brands scale their paid traffic.

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