How to improve the performance and ROI of your Instagram Video Advertising

Apply these principles to your Instagram Video Adverts to drive improved performance

Instagram Video Advertising

From day 1 Instagram has allowed users to post video content, with 5 million videos being uploaded within 24 hours of Instagram going live back in 2013. Video advertising on Instagram was not available until 30 October 2014, when it was launched in the US, and subsequently rolled out internationally.

Recent data released by Cisco suggests that there’s plenty more room for growth in our consumption of social video, as it forecasts that close to 1 million minutes of video content will cross global IP networks every second within the next 2 years.

With this audience reach and sophisticated targeting capabilities Instagram Video Advertising represents a compelling alternative to the traditional broadcast channels, though it’s not a simply another channel to air your 30 second TV commercial.

When consuming video content on Instagram the audiences behaviour is very different to when they are watching TV, consequently for your video content to be effective across Instagram it needs to be produced in synch with how it is consumed.

The 10 principles outlined below are designed to guide you through the process of creating the most compelling and responsive video content for publication in your Instagram video ads.

1. Mobile First

Instagram was designed as a mobile app and has continued to be developed with a mobile first philosophy.

In response to this mobile first position it’s critical that your video advert performs perfectly on mobile. The starting point for this is to get the dimensions for your video content in synch with those requested by Instagram, for vertical that is 180 x 1920 and for square 1080 x 1080.

Secondly, mobile first also dictates that your content should be easily digestible by the audience, so short and to the point. This was a key finding in Facebook’s cluster analysis of video ads which concluded that Mobile first ads are watched for longer and are more memorable, as indicated in the diagram opposite.

2. Keep it short

Facebook’s research study on the attention span of users across each of its platforms concluded that you should keep your Instagram ads under 15 seconds, though comments by Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg suggest that 6 seconds is the more effective duration, as they deliver “higher brand metrics across the board.”

Wistia conducted similar research on the effect of a videos duration on the audiences level of engagement.  The results (published opposite) tells us that shorter videos are better for getting people to watch the entire video.


Source: Wistia

3. Leverage your Brand

The Facebook Video Ad research also looked at the impact of brand within the video adverts and found that Instagram users where 23% more likely to remember brands that included a logo with the first 3 seconds of the video.



Source: Facebook IQ

4. No dependency on sound

By default Instagram Ads auto-play with the sound turned off, though each Ad does include an icon prompting the viewer to tap for sound. If the user opts to switch the sound on for an ad future videos will auto-play with audio on by default.

Given the preference of users to consume the content with audio off its important that your video ad communicates your message without the need for audio. This is where captions can help, as by including sound-bite orientated, short captions you’ll increase your viewing time by around 12%.

Instagram recommendation.....

Instagram has repeatedly recommended that advertisers add captions to their videos. Their best practices for political ads state the following:

“Your videos should communicate your message even without audio. Don’t rely on voiceovers or dialog to relay key information. Use captions and graphic overlays to make sure your message gets across with sound on or off.”

5. Follow the Instagram Video Advertising Specs

It’s been shown that adverts featuring high quality video are displayed more often than those featuring poor quality video.

The Instagram video ad specs are listed opposite.


Instagram Video Ad Specs

  • Higher the resolution the better, with maximum file size of 4GB
  • No Pillar Boxing
  • MP4 or MOV are preferred
  • Insatgarm video ads duration should be a maximum of 60 seconds
  • Stories video ads must be a maximum of 15 seconds.

And on the technical side:

  • 264 Compression
  • Square pixels
  • Progressive scan
  • Fixed frame rate
  • Stereo AAC audio compression at 128kpbs or higher

6. Use on screen text sparingly

Given your audience has such a short attention span it’s important not to bombard them with too many messages, so keep the on screen captions to a minimum, but do include them as they’ll boost your response and recall.

When creating your video ad thumbnail keep the text to an absolute minimum as Instagram is very strict on what they will accept, quoting that if over 20% of your thumbnail image is covered with text they will not display it and request a new thumbnail.

7. Call To Action

Instagram video ads include a CTA button that appears at the bottom of users’ screens. But if you want to call on them to take an action in your video, the middle of your ad is the optimal time to do it.

By placing your CTA mid way through your video ad you have enabled the viewer to engage with your ad and know what you are offering.

Wistia found that mid-roll CTAs have higher conversion rates (16.95%) than CTAs at the start or end of videos, at 3.15% and 10.98% respectively.

Calls to action positioned in the middle of a video ad clearly outperformed those at the beginning, or end. Source: Wistia

8. Instagram video Ad Formats

Instagram offers a range of Video Ad Formats, to help create content that communicates your proposition in the most effective way.

These formats include, vertical video ads, video carousel ads, Instagram Stories ads and sponsored live videos.

The question is which is best your campaign?

When selecting the Ad format best for your campaign its important to consider your marketing objectives in conjunction with the intended duration of your video. 

Instagram Ad Formats

Here’s an overview of the Instagram Video Ad formats

  • In Feed Video Ad – Can be published as landscape, square or vertical and is best for delivering video views and driving awareness.
  • Video Carousel – enables you to add up to three swipeable, interactive videos in the same ad. Essentially you are able to publish 3x the content for the same ad cost.
  • Instagram Stories – maximum duration 15 seconds

9. Upload multiple versions of your video content

When creating a Instagram ad you have the opportunity to upload up to 10 versions of your video to create a 10-way test.

Under this approach Instagram runs these 10 versions of the video ad and optimizes the campaign in real time, ensuring that the most effective version of your advert is aired most frequently.

This 10 way test is designed to minimize the level of subjectivity in the content selection process by letting your target audience decide which is the most effective purely by their actions.

10. Make your Instagram video ad Shoppable

If your objective is to drive sales fro your video ad the Shoppable Tag feature available within Stories Videos is worthy of consideration.

By adding shoppable tags to your Instagram Stories you are able to display a price tag over the product you are featuring within your video.

If the user taps on the tag they can buy the product on your landing page or even within Instagram if you have connected a Facebook catalog to your Instagram business profile.

The Playable Algorithm and AI edits your video to be fully optimized for maximum impact in your Instagram Video Ad.

Take our AI for a test drive to see how Playable improves your Instagram video advertising ROI
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