How to Create Successful Instagram and Snapchat Stories Ads

It's the quickly evolving pace of video marketing that ensures digital marketers never have to sit through a boring day. Trying to stay one step ahead of change (or at least keep pace with it) keeps digital marketers humble—even the experts are new to advancements in platforms. The release of Snapchat and Instagram Stories Ads impacts the landscape of video marketing, strengthening the need for vertical videography that can leave an impression in the midst of noisy entertainment. These new additions present their own challenges and opportunities alike—and the brands that succeed with them are those able to dedicate resources quickly and efficiently for experimentation. To get the best insights in the process of experimentation, customization is key for each platform and audience.

Mobile video marketing is a new territory for many marketers. And with networks adding new platforms and formats, it becomes increasingly daunting. The arrival of Snapchat and Instagram Stories Ads is no exception to that. In fact, vertical formats have thrown the creation process of video advertisements a curveball. Repurposing the videos you’ve created for a horizontal platform like Facebook is not an option.

For context, let’s dive into the state of video advertising right now:

  • 64% say watching a marketing video on Facebook has influenced a purchase decision in the last month
  • 84% watch marketing videos on mobile devices
  • 39% of marketers are creating square and/or vertical videos
  • 58% of consumers are watching branded videos daily on Snapchat
  • 49% of consumers are watching branded videos daily on Instagram

With new platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories—not to mention whatever is to come in the future—marketers need to be more selective than ever on which platforms make the most sense for reaching their audience. To be an innovator on every network is a big, and frankly, superfluous goal. Based on the 2017 Internet Trends Report, this year is predicted to be the first time digital advertising exceeds TV advertising in regards to spending. With the added complexity of formats, it’s time for brands to rethink digital ad spending compared to traditional advertising on TV. Customized content for each network will become the status quo.

Marketers need to be more selective than ever on which platforms make the most sense for reaching their audience.


Considering the amount of time and budget that goes into TV advertisements, when there’s a shift to spend more digitally and reach audiences in new mediums, ephemeral content becomes the norm. TV advertisements are justified in the scale of their expense, as you create one that can be used for months to come. In the new culture of online advertising, marketers are tasked to create new content more often. But what makes sense about this shift from TV advertising is the immediacy of encouraging action: Snapchat and Instagram ads give marketers an opportunity to incite action from their audience.

Recently, Snapchat released access to their self-serve ad platform. Some are concerned about the low-quality advertisements reaching users. How can advertisers ensure they understand the platform and what a high-quality ad looks like? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, since there is plenty we already know about video success. But what are the nuances for Snapchat and Instagram stories that advertisers must consider before diving into production?

Know Your Audience

Thanks to Animoto, we know:

  • 39% of consumers are more likely to finish videos with subtitles
  • 67% of marketers use text over imagery most of the time or always
  • 85% of Facebook video is watched with the sound off

When are people are watching videos?

  • 33% Lunch Hour
  • 43% Afternoon
  • 56% Evening
  • 38% Before Bed
  • 16% Middle of the Night

When producing a video, it’s important to prioritize creating an experience that does not rely on sound. Mobile peak hours are typically morning and mid-evening times. So although sound is important and can enhance the video experience, it’s crucial that the video is still able to communicate visually without it.

Snapchat’s Targeting Capabilities

For a quick overview, Snapchat allows you to target by:

  • Lifestyle categories
  • Demographics: age, gender, location, and advanced demographics (income, education level, etc.)
  • Device: operating system, carrier, cellular connectivity
  • Custom audiences: emails, lookalike, past engagements with geofilters

Instagram’s Targeting Capabilities

  • Demographics: age, gender, location, languages
  • Interests: pages followed, general interests
  • Behaviors: activities done on and off of Facebook
  • Custom Audiences: email, lookalikes

With any advertising campaign, the targeting you set in place will be vital to the success of your campaign. With the various types of targeting, make sure you have that in mind before you get started in creative concepting. After you’ve established who you want to target, determine how you can tap into existing behaviors by creating content that will resonate.

Lessons from the Early-Adopters of Snapchat and Instagram Stories Ads

  1. User Perspective: Many brands have adopted the angle of the user. Instead of having the advertisement look like it is clearly a well-produced video, they’re filming it from the perspective of a user to have it blend in well with the platform. This can improve overall view-through rates, as the style blends in better and doesn’t scream “this is an advertisement.”
  2. Take Risks: With the time limit of 15 seconds, marketers are forced to get creative in communicating their message. Taking risks are a way to learn faster and differentiate your brand on the platform.
  3. Have a Clear Call-to-Action: Again, the time limit can be challenging so make it clear to your audience on what they’ll get when they swipe up. (Make sure where you lead them to is optimized for mobile too — make the experience as seamless as possible).
  4. Tell a Story: This is important, yet commonly forgotten.
  5. [For Snapchat] Take advantage of the Snapcode: Integrate offline components to your Snapchat ad, and Snapcodes are a powerful way to do it. Snapcodes get little coverage but are a great way to get people engaged with your online brand. Pepsi Fire Sweepstakes is an all-star example of this. They’ve created a boomerang effect of generating awareness of their Fire Sweepstakes on Snapchat to drive sales of their Pepsi Fire bottle, in order to get people back to Snapchat and submit their entry to the sweepstakes.
  6. [For Instagram] Tie your grid posts with your advertisements: Don’t leave your ads on their own. Tie them in with what you’re organically posting to ensure your message is reaching all of your audience. Creating unity within the platform is a simple way to strengthen your message.

Video can arm your brand to tell stories better. Brands who are open to experimentation when new platforms arise will ultimately become leaders that get one video closer to cracking the code. What have you discovered to be a critical ingredient to a winning video?

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Ary Esfahani is a Digital Strategist at Spredfast. She is passionate about the evolving landscape of digital and writes to help marketers be ahead of that change.