Best practices for effective ad creative


Instagram is one of the most popular advertising platforms, with 2 billion monthly active users and over 2 million advertisers.

Paired with the ability to evolve its capabilities, you’ve got a platform that compulsively hooks users and advertisers.

This article breaks down Instagram’s ad formats and best practices for creating compelling ads for each placement.


With humble beginnings as a photo-sharing app, it’s no wonder that image ads are the bread and butter of Instagram. 

It’s the simplest way to get your brand, messaging and products in front of audiences on Instagram, plus it’s a great jumping-off point for the beginning of any advertising campaign.

Instagram image adsInstagram image ads

Best practices

  • Use strong imagery that immediately captures the users’ attention.
  • Make your call to action easily identifiable and clear.
  • Speaks to your audience/industry. With the new Meta Advantage+ Audiences, your creative is your targeting.


Reels have become a popular Instagram advertising format since rolling out in 2021.

Reels ads are not the same as regular video content on Instagram – they have unique features and abilities that video ads do not.

Differences between Reels and Video AdsDifferences between Reels and Video Ads

On top of Sponsored Reels, there is also the Ads on Reels placement, which is an overlay on Reels sponsored by a company/brand different from the creator of the Reel.

Sponsored ReelsSponsored Reels
Example of a Sponsored Reel:
The reel is sponsored by the company that created the content
Ads on ReelsAds on Reels
Ads on Reels:
Promotion on the Reel separate from the content

Best practices

  • Leverage eye-catching visuals and content that fills the whole screen.
  • Make your offer/call to action clear within the first few seconds of the video.
  • Make content that doesn’t seem like an advertisement for longer watch times and better engagement. 

Dig deeper: How to set your Facebook and Instagram advertising budgets for maximum results

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Video ads

On Instagram, videos get 21.2% more engagement than images. Videos allow creators a more expansive way to communicate their message and increase results, whether for brand awareness, sales or leads.

With the right visuals, sounds and storytelling, a compelling video ad can make all the difference in your advertising plan. 

As described above, Reels and videos have some similarities and stark differences. Video ads are shown:

  • In the feed and can be up to 60 minutes long (but shorter is always better than longer). 
  • Directly in the user’s main feed alongside organic posts, allowing advertisers to “blend in” with organic content. 
Instagram video adsInstagram video ads

Best practices

  • Grab your audience’s attention within the first three seconds of your video. Users scroll fast, so creating content to capture their attention is imperative. 
  • Make your offer/call to action clear within the first few seconds of the video.
  • Create videos that can be consumed without audio. Many users scroll through without sound on, so do not rely on audio to get your messaging across.

Carousel ads present an opportunity for unique storytelling within the ad space unlike any other placement.

While they are perfect for showcasing multiple products, carousels are also a great way to capture and engage your audience. Use images that span several cards, creating a new type of immersive experience for the user. 

Instagram Carousel adsInstagram Carousel ads

Best practices

  • Use strong creative on each slide.
  • Ensure that the headlines on each slide correlate with the creative. 
  • Use a clear call to action on each slide.

Stories ads

Stories are an immersive way to connect your audience with your brand between user’s personal Stories posts. With its full-screen experience and high engagement, eye-catching creatives are key. 

Another way that Stories ads are unique is when the CTA is clicked, the link swipes up and brings the user to the landing page. Stories ads can be done with both images, videos and carousels. 

Instagram Stories adsInstagram Stories ads

Best practices

  • Use all of the space you have. Besides Reels, this is the most space you have to advertise.
  • Make your Stories ads blend in with user’s posts for the biggest impact.

Explore ads

The Explore tab is a great way to find new content and accounts on Instagram.

Every tab is curated to each account, so this is a great way to reach users who have yet to discover your brand but fall within your customer profile. 

Promoted ads can appear in the grid of the Explore tab with the Explore home placement and in the Explore feed once a user clicks on a post and starts scrolling. 

Explore HomeExplore Home
Instagram’s Explore home placement
Instagram Explore - Similar postsInstagram Explore - Similar posts
Instagram Explore ad

Promoted content can be both images and videos, all falling under the same guidelines as image and video ads. 

Best practices

  • For Explore home placements, be sure to use an eye-catching creative that sounds out so users are more inclined to click on your ad.
  • Follow best practices for video and image ads for success with Explore ads.

Crafting Instagram Ads that captivate and drive action

With a deep understanding of each ad format and placement and the best practices for optimizing creative, you can find advertising success on Instagram. 

Tailor your messaging, visuals and calls-to-action for your goals and target audience while leveraging unique formats like Reels and Stories. Remember to grab attention fast, communicate your offer clearly, and create an immersive experience. 

Whether you have a physical product, software or brand awareness, make the biggest impact possible with the best Instagram ad format. With the right strategy and compelling creative assets, your next Instagram campaign can connect with wider audiences and drive stronger results.

Dig deeper: How to do Instagram lead generation

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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