Instagram triples length of Story ads with carousel format

Instagram is looking to make the ads in its Stories feed better equipped for brands to tell stories.

Instagram is rolling out a version of its Story ads that can include three consecutive photos or videos instead of the standard one, the Facebook-owned photo-and-video app announced on Thursday.

Instagram is testing the expanded format with 12 brands, including California Pizza Kitchen, Netflix and Paramount, and will also open up the new format, which it’s calling “carousel ads for Instagram Stories,” to brands buying ads through automated ad-buying firms in the Facebook Marketing Partners program. The company does not yet have a timeline for when it will become available to self-serve advertisers, said Instagram’s director of product marketing Susan Rose.

By tripling the number of posts in a Story ad, Instagram is enabling brands to get more creative with their campaigns and removing the pressure to squeeze everything into one 15-second video, as has been the case since Instagram introduced Story ads last year.

For example, a clothing brand could begin their ad with a video of someone wearing an outfit, followed by a close-up photo of a particular garment and finish up with a post that links to the brand’s e-commerce site so a person can swipe up on the ad to buy it. Or a brand could simply use the format to stitch together three 15-second videos into a single, albeit segmented, 45-second spot.

And now that brands can create multiple posts in a Story ad in the same way that people can include multiple posts in an organic Story, advertisers can adopt trends popularized by non-advertisers, such as including multiple posts that people can tap through to create a flipbook effect.

“The goal is really to create ad formats that feel as native as possible to Instagram,” said Rose. According to Rose, one-third of the most-viewed organic Stories on Instagram are posted by brands, and 60 percent of Instagram’s organic Stories are viewed with the sound on.

The maximum length of each post in a Story ad remains the same. Videos can be up to 15 seconds long, and photos can stay on screen for up to five seconds. And people will still be able to swipe past the ad to skip it, no matter whether they’re viewing the first post or the last.

For now, brands will only be able to include up to three posts in a carousel ad within Stories, but Instagram may eventually increase the number, depending on how brands and people respond to the initial version of these expanded ads, said Rose.

To help brands identify what does and does not work in their carousel ad campaigns, Instagram will break out view and swipe-up counts for each post in an ad. Impressions, however, will only be counted once when the ad is served, regardless of how many posts within the ad a person saw.


About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.