POV: Sponsored Stories on Instagram


Instagram Stories, where users can share moments of the day in a slideshow format, has been a regular feature of Instagram since August 2016. The feature is now opening up to brand advertising with the launch of some new ad units following a two month beta.

Details and Implications

According to Facebook, over 150m Instagrammers use Stories daily across the world. This is almost the same number of users that the entire Snapchat app hit in December 2016 (161m). The new feature is therefore proving to be very popular with brands. According to Instagram, 70% of users already follow a business on the app, so it is unsurprising that advertising in Stories has had a good take-up at launch.

Ahead of the official roll-out more than 30 advertisers were testing Stories ads. AirBnB claims it ‘saw a double digit point increase in ad recall’, as it allowed the brand to ‘reach the right audience, in the right mind-set, with the right story at scale […]’ and has supposedly ‘made a measurable impact.’

Adverts within stories are fully immersive, full-screen vertical ads. At first, brands will only be able to optimise their campaigns towards reach, however in the future this is expected to be expanded to different levels of interactions such as website clicks, website conversions and mobile app installs. The ads appear when a user is scrolling through a selection of stories and the ‘Sponsored’ marker appears at the bottom of the screen to show that it is a paid story. Initially the videos are limited to 15 seconds and are fully skippable.

Metrics such as reach, impressions, replies and exits from each story will be available from within the standard reporting tools. This will allow brands to use these insights to create more relevant content that will resonate with their users.

An important difference to standard reporting is that on Facebook and Instagram, a video view is counted after 3 seconds, however mirroring the same format on Snapchat, a view in the new Stories Ads is measured as soon as the ad appears.


The overall effectiveness of advertising with Instagram Stories is always going to depend on the audience. As with every new format, we will only truly see how it performs when more advertisers start to take advantage of it. It has all of the potential for brands to reach their users in a much more personal way with the immersive, full-screen presentation grabbing attention. But with reportedly 60%+ of users skipping ads ‘always’ or ‘often’, the real indicator, as with all social activity,  will be measuring tangible business impact.