Feeds are still the dominant ad placement within Facebook. But ad buyers say they’re seeing more of a shift to Stories, in particular, Instagram Stories, over the last year.
The increased interest in Stories come from more consumer adoption and the benefits in cheaper pricing, depending on the targeting and region, buyers said. Indeed, during Facebook’s first-quarter-of-2019 earnings call on April 24, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that half a billion people every month were using Stories across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger and COO Sheryl Sandberg revealed 3 million advertisers were buying Stories. During Facebook’s second-quarter-of-2019 earnings call on July 24, executives didn’t reveal more usage data, but CFO David Wehner hinted at more adoption.
“In Q2, the average price per ad decreased 4%, and the number of ad impressions served across our services increased by 33%. Similar to last quarter, impression growth was primarily driven by ads on Instagram Stories, Instagram Feed, and Facebook News Feed. The year-over-year decline in average price per ad reflects an ongoing mix shift toward Stories ads and geographies that monetize at [a] lower rate,” Wehner said.
Advertisers told Digiday they are spending more on Stories in 2019. Brandon Doyle, founder of Wallaroo Media, said about 40% of his digital agency’s budgets are going toward Stories ads, though Instagram feed still is the biggest placement for usage, followed by Instagram Stories, Facebook feed, Facebook Stories, and Messenger. Andrew and Gracie Foxwell, co-founders of Foxwell Digital who manage an 800-member association, the Facebook & Instagram Pro Ad Buyers Industry Group, said they estimate about 80% of collective ad spend going to Facebook and Instagram feeds and 20% going elsewhere, mainly to Instagram Stories. At their agency, where they consult and advise on $10 million in monthly ad spend on Facebook and Instagram, the Foxwells said they lean 70% to 30% with more ad dollars going to Instagram Stories.
Facebook executives have been pitching the importance of Stories to advertisers over the last year. Looking at its calls with investors, the word “stories” was said 72 times on Facebook’s third-quarter-of-2018 earnings call, 63 times in the fourth-quarter call and then 52 times in the first-quarter-of-2019 call. While it was said only 23 times on the second-quarter call on July 24, advertisers have already adopted it more as they see worthwhile ROI. The Foxwells said Instagram Stories ads can be 20% cheaper than feed ads, depending on targeting.
Kieley Taylor, global head of social at GroupM, said she’s anticipating the release of ads within WhatsApp Status, that app’s version of Stories.
“Largely the opportunity has been with Instagram Stories, but we do see some more reach available with Facebook Stories as well. Ultimately, we are most optimistic for when ads in Status become available in WhatsApp,” Taylor said.
The new dynamic ads feature in Instagram Stories have helped drive adoption, as Sandberg said on the July 24 earnings call. The Foxwells said they saw Instagram Stories only become “viable from a direct response standpoint beginning in Q2 of this year. They began to show promise in Q1 but showed consistent delivery and results beginning in April 2019.” That is yet to be the case of Facebook Stories, leading to slower adoption from agencies like Wallaroo Media and Foxwell Digital.
The addition of more interactive elements on Instagram Stories ads also has inspired more use. Earlier this year, Instagram added polling to Stories ads. The Foxwells said the best performing ads on Instagram Stories for direct responses are five-second boomerang videos with a poll. That’s followed by a 10-second user-generated review of a product.
Taylor of GroupM said she would like to see more interactive features and call-to-action elements such as lead ads.
But while advertisers have enjoyed the transition to Stories ads over the year last, they remain frustrated by the increased inconsistencies Facebook’s ads manager in the same time frame. Doyle said his agency has seen reporting issues, uploading issue and just general loading issues on Facebook ads manager. These same issues don’t just affect small digital agencies but also large holding companies, an executive at a holding company said.
In back channels, private Facebook groups or Twitter direct messages, Facebook engineers have told vocal buyers that these are known bugs and the work to fix them is ongoing, the Foxwells said.
As Sandberg said on the July 24 earnings call, the adoption of Stories relies on making it easy for advertisers to deliver these ads.
“We know that it’s not enough to make these new formats available. We also need to make it easy for advertisers to create effective ads. We do this by launching new ad products and by improving our existing ones to deliver more value for people and advertisers,” Sandberg said.