Instagram is ramping up its pitch for direct-response ad dollars as its Stories ads move into Facebook and Messenger


Adam Mosseri at F8

  • Instagram is rolling out new advertising and shopping tools aimed at direct-response advertisers as its Stories ads expand into Facebook and Messenger.
  • Facebook’s ad platform skews towards direct-response advertisers while brands tend to use Instagram for branding-focused campaigns.
  • It can be hard to run video ads on its apps because it’s not clear how Stories compares to other ad formats.
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Instagram wants to prove that its platform works just as well as sibling app Facebook for direct-response advertisers.

Instagram’s roots are in branding-focused marketers with visual assets like photos, but now it wants to target direct-response advertisers that are the bedrock of Facebook advertisers, like small businesses and mobile game developers.

To that end, Instagram is starting to apply features like polls to ads that run in Stories. Stories is a fast-growing ad format that Facebook believes will become a more important stream of ad revenue as it expands beyond Instagram into Facebook and Messenger. 

Read more: ‘Commerce has become a battleground for platforms’: Instagram will now let influencers sell products directly on the platform

In March, Instagram rolled out a feature that lets advertisers poll users. Mobile app gaming company NextGames and Dunkin’ Donuts have tested such polling stickers in their Stories ads, said Maria Goa, a product marketing manager for monetization at Instagram, during a session about Stories at Facebook’s F8 developer conference.

A digital video exec who attended Instagram’s session said Facebook has so many ad formats, it’s hard to know how to spread budgets across them. This exec was also looking to understand how Stories compare to other video ad placements.

Facebook has also been starting to sell Stories ad inventory in Facebook and Messenger.

Instagram wants brands to rethink stickers

Instagram is urging restraint when it comes to using graphics on top of a Story. Unlike polls or hashtags, images can’t be clicked, and Instagram said that it sees brands over-use stickers. In one example it gave, a yoga brand added Instagram’s popular “savage” sticker to a post, although Instagram’s users mean something else when they use the sticker.

In a test run by Instagram, images without stickers converted better than those with stickers. For video, stickers that were weaved into an advertiser’s story performed better than videos without stickers.

“Static stickers in Stories are often used organically to help enhance the message that you’re trying to convey,” Goa said on the panel. “We recommend businesses to use stickers if they’re used in a strategic and authentic way. Avoid them if they’re unnecessary or if they contribute to digital clutter.”

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