3 Instagram Video Ad Strategies to Stand Out

Originally posted on Search Engine Land

In this post

Instagram video ads are pivotal to an overall paid social media strategy. As the fourth most-used social platform and the most downloaded app in the world, its significance isn’t only in its popularity. It also maintains a distinct focus on compelling visuals and creativity that has remained engrained in its DNA since its earliest years as a simple photo-sharing app. 

Over the years, the platform has evolved into a dynamic landscape today with video content emerging as a strong driver of engagement and influence. According to a survey conducted on Instagram, 91 percent of respondents said they watch videos on the platform weekly. This statistic highlights the appetite among Instagram users for video content and why it’s a powerful tool for businesses and marketers aiming to capture the attention of their target audience. 

In this article, we’ll review some of the core best practices to consider when maximizing the return on your investment in Instagram video ads and how to upgrade them to distance yourself from the competition.

Think mobile-first

The first key component of a winning Instagram video ad strategy is crafting mobile-first ads that are designed to seamlessly integrate with the mobile experience from the ground up. These contrast ads that are retrofitted for mobile or adhere to a more traditional ad format. 

A comprehensive study conducted by Meta, spanning 759 video ads across 25 countries revealed that mobile-first ads were watched longer on average and resulted in higher aided recall. Mobile-first ads typically feature early brand introduction, are shorter durations typically under 20 seconds and take sound-off environment into consideration. 

The ability of mobile-first ads to fit into a user’s on-the-go, fast-paced interaction with their devices is one of the primary reasons they’re more effective in capturing and retaining audience engagement. Let’s look at a handful of important aspects to keep in mind to ensure your ads are being built with this mobile-first mentality.

Vertical video

While adopting vertical video may seem like an obvious choice, it is an element that benefits from more thoughtful execution. Simply adjusting the orientation of a video to fit the vertical format is the easy part; the true impact lies in leveraging the vertical real estate to its fullest potential. 

You can set yourself apart by approaching the capture of your footage and layout of your edit to strategically exploit the vertical space. Consider the unique canvas that a vertical frame provides. 

A couple of examples would be having your ad’s animated graphics/elements unfold vertically in a visually pleasing way that follows the natural flow of mobile scrolling. You could also frame the subjects of your video when filming to occupy more of that vertical space. 

By tailoring your content to the vertical layout, you adhere to user behavior while enhancing your video’s immersive quality. The vertical dimension shouldn’t just be a checkbox in a list of specs, it’s a creative playground waiting to be explored that has the potential to engage your audience in a distinct and compelling manner.

Closed captions

Utilizing closed captions is another powerful way to optimize your Instagram video ads. Instagram provides tools that allow you to easily integrate captions into your video to enhance accessibility and engagement in sound-off environments. If you’re looking for 100% accuracy, you can upload your own SRT file which you would need to create separately, or you can leverage the platform’s automated caption generation feature.

However, you can go the extra mile by embedding custom captions through your video editing software, providing a level of control beyond mere accuracy. With this advanced approach, you can intricately synchronize the timing of your captions’ appearance in the video, control their animation and customize their appearance to align with your brand’s identity.

Custom captions are subtle yet influential in delivering a cohesive and visually compelling ad. In an era where user engagement can hinge on smaller, imperceivable details, the investment in crafting bespoke captions can elevate your Instagram video ads to new heights of impact and resonance.


You can further elevate your Instagram video ads by actively involving your audience through interactive features like shopping tags or polls. Not only can these tools enhance the user experience, but they can also surface valuable insights into your audience’s preferences.

Integrating shopping tags into your videos will allow users to explore and purchase products with a simple tap on your ad and create a frictionless path from discovery to conversion. Incorporating polls directly into your videos provides a dynamic way to gauge your audience’s thoughts and preferences while providing you with real-time feedback that can inform future content strategies.

This two-way communication fosters a sense of inclusivity, where your audience feels heard and valued and turns passive viewers into engaged participants. Both of these features enhance the overall user experience and position your brand as responsive and attuned to the needs and preferences of your Instagram audience.

Early brand introduction

The opening moments of your Instagram video ad are crucial. Ensuring that your message and brand are introduced early in the video enhances the likelihood of user retention and recall.

Meta’s mobile-first study found that users are 1.23x more likely to recall a brand when brand presence occurs within the first 3 seconds than ads that don’t.

This can go beyond simply slapping a logo on the screen. Ideally, seamlessly weaving your brand into the narrative of your video will give your ad a more authentic feel and cause users to feel less like they’re only being sold to. This point segues right into our next best practice.

Be authentic

Authenticity is a cornerstone in the evolving landscape of digital marketing. The emergence of less polished, more spontaneous aesthetics has become a hallmark of successful content.
This can include things like filming with phone cameras instead of higher-end professional cameras or having talent hold and speak directly to the camera in a vlog-style fashion.

It feels counterintuitive, and I remember having my doubts the first time I ran ads that went for this style, but the results quickly dissolved those doubts. Achieving this rougher aesthetic while maintaining your brand’s guidelines might be a difficult task, but it’s a strong option in your arsenal of creative choices to engage your audience effectively.

Other platforms like TikTok have notably embraced this more human and unscripted approach, and Instagram, with its diverse user base, tends to respond to it positively. It goes beyond the traditional corporate tone and establishes a relatable and human dimension to your brand.

Resonate with younger demographics

Running parallel to authenticity, recognizing and catering to the distinct demographic makeup of Instagram is the final component we’ll be looking at for the success of your Instagram video ads.

The platform attracts a younger audience, with over 60 percent of users between 18 and 34. To maximize the impact of your ads, aligning your marketing strategy with the preferences and behaviors of this age group is strongly recommended. Tailor your ads’ tone, style and content to resonate with the interests and aspirations of the younger demographic.

Whether referencing trending memes, using popular music, or incorporating relatable moments of their lifestyle, the key is creating content seamlessly integrating into their digital experience.

By adapting your approach to match the nuances of your target audience, you establish relatability and foster a stronger connection that goes beyond a transactional interaction, which can build long-term brand loyalty.

Creativity is key

Like most things, there will always be exceptions to the rule, and there are no guarantees for success. Although these tips and best practices will certainly increase the odds of finding those winning ads, there’s simply no replacement for creativity.

Creativity still reigns supreme on the Instagram platform. It has no bounds, and rules can be bent if there’s informed intent behind exploring those boundaries.

You May Also Like