Digital MarketingDigital AdvertisingStory ads are creating new opportunities for advertisers – but what makes a good story?

Story ads are creating new opportunities for advertisers – but what makes a good story?

Smartly.io's VP of Global Marketing, Robert Rothschild, discusses how story ads are creating new opportunities for social advertisers.

30-second summary:

  • Facebook recently announced that four million of the social network’s seven million advertisers are using the Story ads format across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.
  • Ads that are designed specifically to the Stories format are performing better – simply running your news feed ads, or cuts from your TVC assets, in Stories won’t bring you the best results.
  • It’s not enough to be “good enough” anymore – to stand out from the crowd your ads must be both beautifully crafted and communicate your message in seconds.
  • Smartly.io’s survey found that compelling or engaging video (35 percent) is a top factor influencing consumers’ decision to buy a product through a social media ad, followed by customer testimonials (32 percent) and influencer participation (26 percent).
  • ‘Context’, ‘space’ and ‘time’ are the three main elements that creative and performance teams should focus on to create powerful Story ads.

At CES 2020, Facebook announced that four million of the social network’s seven million advertisers are using the Story ads format across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. This marks significant growth from the three million advertisers reported by the company in April 2019.

With such a steep increase in spending for Stories, it’s fair to wonder how marketers should adjust their approach to social ads to get the most bang for their bucks. Rapid improvements to ad tech put a greater emphasis on performance in recent years at the expense of creativity, but that’s about to change.

Ads that are designed specifically to the Stories format are performing better – simply running your news feed ads, or cuts from your TVC assets, in Stories won’t bring you the best results. Visually engaging ads enable brands to tell their story in a more expressive manner, capturing and holding the attention of today’s easily distracted consumer.

Stories are convincing CMOs of the importance of being visually striking in a world where everyone’s feeds are chock full of professional-grade visuals. It’s not enough to be “good enough” anymore – to stand out from the crowd your ads must be both beautifully crafted and communicate your message in seconds.

The bottom line is that content that ‘looks like an ad’ will be ignored, but content that blends in seamlessly alongside the content that consumers are already consuming on social will have a much greater shot at capturing attention.

Using creative to drive performance of Story Ads

Here at Smartly.io, it’s our belief that the creative capabilities of story-style content will ultimately overtake news feed consumption. And, consumers tend to agree. We surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers over the holidays and found that compelling or engaging video (35 percent) is a top factor influencing consumers’ decision to buy a product through a social media ad, followed by customer testimonials (32 percent) and influencer participation (26 percent).

However, as many companies leverage these powerful and creative advertising formats, the competition to capture consumers’ attention is at an all-time high. Brands that can create and deliver visually engaging Story ads – single or a Carousel, in a vertical format, with short videos – will see increased campaign conversions and deliver the greatest return on ad spend.

When developing Stories, advertisers need to keep consumer ad fatigue in mind. Campaigns that aren’t carefully crafted and delivered can cause a negative reaction from your target audience

The fundamentals of successful Story Ads

There are three main elements that creative and performance teams should focus on to create powerful Story ads.

  • Context includes photograph angles, font, animations, placement, and color. These are all creative decisions that control your ability to tell a story. Work with your creative department to ensure your brand, promotional offer, or product are at the forefront of your consumer’s attention throughout the ad. Consider using the native elements, such as stickers, polling, etc. that make stories more engaging and encourage interaction while also making your ads look less, well… like ads!
  • Space gives your brand more area to communicate the intended message or call for action. Instagram and Facebook Story ads go beyond the conventional square format, giving advertisers room to explore the entire 9:16 vertical screen. Moreover, vertical formats ensure that content is delivered with unbroken attention, as users don’t have to rotate their screen to view images or videos.
  • As consumers’ attention spans get shorter and shorter, time is of the essence. Story formats are designed for quick consumption – brands must capture consumers’ attention in five seconds for photos and 15 seconds for video. The challenge is to create thumb-stopping content that is memorable in a temporary environment and gets people to stop swiping through.
  • Don’t stop at the ad either, consider the entire path to purchase and ensure that your ads drive consumers to relevant mobile-first landing pages or even better directly to checkout, either option reduces friction and is far better than sending consumers straight to your default home page.

TUI, one of the world’s largest travel groups, launched Facebook Story Ads to kick-off one of its biggest campaigns: the Big Smile Weeks. Using video templates, TUI was able to produce creative that pulled dynamic content from their destination catalog, ensuring consistency throughout the campaign – even when running at 100x volume of variations.

Story Ads

Each ad had a clear value proposition, such as destinations and prices, with plenty of blank space not to distract from the messaging. As a result, Click-Through-Rates increased by 14 percent, and Facebook Stories creatives cut the Cost-per-Acquisition by 12 percent.

Overall, consumers are spending more time immersed in stories than scrolling through news feeds. Luckily for advertisers, the story ad format offers more display options than other social formats.

How your Stories look and function will determine whether consumers engage with it, especially in a saturated marketplace. When crafted intentionally – using great copy and creative with a clear call to action – you’ll be sure to get the most out of your investment.

Robert Rothschild is the VP and Global Head of Marketing at Smartly.io, the leading social media advertising automation platform. With more than 25 years’ experience in the B2B tech, digital marketing and customer experience industries, Robert has led and developed global marketing initiatives for high-profile enterprise software and technology companies.

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