How to create impactful Instagram ads

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Marketers have been aching to throw advertising money at Instagram even before they rolled out their ad platform.

According to a survey by Payvision, 79% of retailers saw a major growth in mobile commerce in 2015, while more recent studies show that 45% of all shopping now involves some level of mobile use.

When it comes to mobile, getting Instagram right has become the holy grail of marketers. With 400 million users active on the platform, who can blame them?


Advertising on Instagram

Even beyond the impressive figures, the magic of visual storytelling makes Instagram a cut above the rest. Images set in a simple, linear format makes for interactions more intimate and immediate than filtered timelines or 140 words.

Their advertising platform isn’t second-rate either. There are three ways you can present your brand on Instagram: image ads, carousel ads, and video ads. In addition to that, you can choose from direct response buttons with different call-to-actions like learn more, install now, sign up, and many more.

If you’re still hesitant about joining the Instagram advertising bandwagon, keep reading. Find out for sure if you can use these tools to your brand’s advantage and how the highest performing ads function the way they do.

Here are the steps to creating impactful Instagram ads that we’ll be discussing in this article:

Step 1     Define a clear goal and structure your concept according to it Step 2     Select the ad type fit for your concept Step 3     Build a visually compelling campaign in line with your brand identity Step 4     Set up your advertising account Step 5     Get to know the adverts section Step 6     Use compelling and relevant calls-to-action Step 7     Don’t forget hashtags


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01. Define a clear goal and structure your concept according to it

As those behind Instagram put it: “compelling ads on Instagram have a strong concept tied to a clear objective.” In fact, when you log into the Facebook Ads Manager, you’ll be required to select a campaign objective before being able to do anything else. No worries if you’ve never logged in, we’ll walk through the process in a bit.

Take a step back and define what your campaign goal is. Are you trying to increase brand awareness and message association? Do you want increase conversions on your website? Are you advertising an app users should download?

Below you’ll find an ad by Jobr. To convince viewers to download their job search app, they’ve created an image of  cellphone with a notification from their app, letting the user know they’ve matched with a job that has an alluring salary. This serves as an evidence of what their app can do for their users and gives them a motivation to download.


In many cases, goals will align with some of the predefined CTA buttons Instagram offers. Check out the example below from The Bride Story app, designed to motivate future brides to download the app.


Try out this technique by using the customizable Canva design right here—

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First and foremost, you must give your goal a name. Because you will need to develop ideas and concepts for your ads that align with your goal and help you work towards achieving it.

In other words, if you’re aiming to get viewers to click over to your site in order to make a purchase, it would make sense to produce an ad featuring beautiful product photography. If, on the other hand, you were working towards building brand awareness, you might want to create an ad that motivates users to post your image. This means you have to know what your audience is like and what they would want associated with them as a representation of themselves. You could use an endorsement from an influencer or words and images that connect on an emotional level. Maybe add a hashtag or ask them to tag friends when sharing to compound its effectiveness.

Let’s take a look at a couple great Instagram ads that will give you a solid understanding of how this looks like translated into practice.

Check out the Fossil ad below. Fossil, in this case, shared a great product shot aiming to get you to click over to their website and make a purchase. To further motivate you to do so, they’ve created a sense of urgency by letting you know these items are available for a limited time only in the post copy.


If you were aiming to increase brand awareness, you might want to take the same approach showcased below. To motivate viewers to comment or engage, Levi’s integrates their #LifeinLevis hashtag into engaging questions.


02. Select the ad type fit for your concept

With a clear goal and creative direction in mind, decide which of the three Instagram ad formats you’ll be working with. Currently, Instagram offers photo ads, video ads, and carousel ads. Which will better suit your ad will depend on your concept and creative brief (not to mention, your budget).

Photo ads, like the one below from Monki, are by far the simplest way to create an ad. All you’ll need is a sharp photograph, solid copy for your post, and you’re good to go.


Looking to make your own photo ads? Have a go at the templates we’ve included below.

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Nike+ Running Club has also used photo ads to motivate users to install their app. Note how the composition is creative and makes it easy for viewers to quickly understand what the ad is for.


Video ads, on the other hand, will require that you put a bit more time and effort into production. However, they’ll provide you with an opportunity to create a much more immersive experience, as you’ll be able to take advantage of both sound and motion.

Frooti has made some of my favorite videos on Instagram. They’ve shared super fun mini stories of a miniature mango world.


You can also choose to go with a carousel ad. Put simply, they are a string of images that users can swipe through to access further information or images. They let you share more than regular photo ads and don’t require as much work as video ads.

While it may not seem so at first glance, carousel ads offer a great opportunity for you to get creative. Check out the ad below for Delta Airlines. Think of them as comic strips that can let you engage viewers through storytelling.


Learn more about creating carousel ads by reading our article here.

03. Build a visually compelling campaign in line with your brand identity

Once you’ve got a goal, a creative direction, and you’ve decided which of the three formats you’ll be working with — you’re finally ready to create your ad.

Start by getting familiar with the different guidelines you’ll need to observe. You can find information on dimensions, text limits, and everything else you need to know here. Once you are familiar with the dimensions you should be working with and other considerations to keep in mind as you build your ad, head over to Canva to create your ad.

As you design impactful Instagram ads, remember that every ad you finish should feel branded. If you have brand guidelines, be sure to adhere to them.

All your ads must reference your brand and each other by using the same color palette, photographic style, or by utilizing the same design elements. You want to establish consistency between any kind of material you put out, Instagram ads or not.

Headspace, an app that helps you learn how to meditate, makes sure to use its brand color palette and cute illustration style throughout all of its Instagram ads.


You can apply this illustrative style using the beautiful vectors in Canva’s image library — some of which are used in the customizable templates below:

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Canva makes it extremely easy for you to build ads and a whole variety of on-brand materials. Because Canva automatically stores anything you create in it, you’ll be able to tweak existing branded templates you’ve developed.

In a sense, Canva will act as a visual, interactive style guide for you brand as it lets you build your own brand kit and share it with your entire team.

If you take a close look at the brands Instagram celebrate for outstanding use of the platform, you’ll notice that they never fail to post high quality content. You’ll find high resolution images, beautiful compositions, and of course, branded content.

Always design high quality ads. Make sure your images are properly lit and interesting, your text kerned and properly aligned. And don’t underestimate the power of a compelling caption.

In the example below, DealRay pairs high quality photographs of the destinations they advertise with crisp white typography. A simple approach that yields a good-looking ad that speaks for itself.


High quality photos are abundant in the Canva library. Check them out in action on these designs:

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Chatbooks, on the other hand, shoots photos where they can integrate text in post-production. There’s a beautiful product shot, brand personality, all tied together by a great promo.


Apply the same principle in your own Canva design by using the templates below.


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You can also use eye-catching visuals and photographs with dynamic compositions, like the two examples below by Sun Basket and Smile Direct Club.


Make your own high-quality Instagram ad using any of the templates right here:

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04. Set up you advertising account

Once you’ve created an ad, you are ready to post it for the world to see. But before you can share it, you’ll need to connect your Instagram account to Facebook and set a few things up.

Head over to this page and click on Create Instagram Advert. After logging in, you’ll find yourself in the Facebook Adverts Manager.

14_Campaign Objective

As we mentioned before, you’ll be asked to select your campaign objective before being able to move forward. Click on which objective on the list matches yours. You’ll be asked to enter more information depending on your selection.

After doing so, you’ll go through two more sections — Advert Account and Advert Set — before uploading your materials.

In the Advert Account section, you’ll simply input a few details about your account, like your location and currency. Trust me, it’s a piece of cake.

15_Advert Account

In the Advert Set section, you’ll define your audience, placement, and budget and schedule. In the Audience section, you’ll be asked to define who you are targeting.

You can define your audience by using demographics, their interests, and general behaviour; or you can define it using the options displayed in the image below. These will let you import lists of customers who already have a relationship with your business.

16_Custom Audience

In the placement section, you’ll be asked to define where you want your ad to appear. If you want your ad to be featured only on Instagram, simply uncheck all the other options.


Finally, in the budget and schedule section, you’ll be asked to specify how much you wish to spend and how and when you want your ad to run.

One last thing to note while working on these 3 sections:

If you’ve selected “increase conversions on your website” as your objective, an option to create a Facebook Pixel will come up. For someone just getting started with Instagram ads, it can be a little challenging.

The Facebook Pixel is a bit of code that you’ll insert into your website, letting you measure, optimize, and build audiences for your ad campaigns. If work with a web developer, you can easily email them the pixel code for them to handle.

If you are in charge of inserting the pixels into your website, head over to Facebook’s Developer Site. Code can look intimidating but if you just follow the set of steps outlined in the link above by the letter, you’ll do just fine.

05. Get to know the adverts section

The very last section you will see in the Facebook Adverts Manager is the Advert section. This is where you’ll input your images, text, and your call to action (CTA).

18_New Advert

Once you’ve uploaded your creative, entered the text you wish to have accompany your ad, and have selected a CTA, you’ll be able to preview your ad. If everything looks good, you’re ready to place your order.

You’ll want to keep a few things in mind as you work on developing the information you’ll input into the Advert section revolving around calls-to-action and hashtags.

06. Use compelling and relevant calls-to-action

Whenever possible, include a CTA. They help define clear ways in which your audience can engage with your ad. They also pave the path for actions they can take and show clear avenues they can follow.

Instagram lets you easily include CTAs. To do so, you’ll simply select the one that best aligns with your goals and what you wish viewers to do when they see your ad. Currently, you can select from:

• No Button • Apply Now • Book Now • Contact Us • Donate Now • Download • Learn More • Shop Now • Sign Up • Watch More

Below you’ll find a few examples showcasing the use of different CTA options.

Winc invited viewers to attend a special even in their copy, cleverly integrating their CTA in their copy and opting to not include a button. SunnyRebel, on the other hand, opts for a straightforward approach and uses a button with a clear Shop Now call-to-action button in their ad.


You can also apply your calls-to-action to the image itself! Get started with the Canva templates below:

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If you want to motivate users to take a closer look at the products on your site — like DaPulse (whose simplicity stole my heart since day one) in the example below — the inviting Learn More CTA option is the way to go.


Motivating followers to sign up or start an application is an excellent way to generate leads. To do so, use Instagram’s built in Sign Up or Apply Now CTAs. Below, are examples from Smartly and Quickbooks that showcase just that.


Notice how all the examples we’ve provided also showcase all the tips we’ve shared above. They use beautiful photography, feel branded, and have been built around a clear goal.

07. Don’t forget your hashtag

Hashtags make it easy for you to categorize your product and collect important information revolving around it or your brand in one place. They also make it extremely easy for your audience to share information and lead others to an oasis of everything related to your product or brand.

You can also also take advantage of popular hashtags, like #fromwhereistand, to insert yourself into popular feeds and increase brand awareness. As you select them, however, be sure that the different associations around these hashtags match the ones you want associated with your brand.

Below you’ll find an ad for Allstate, an insurance company. In the copy accompanying the ad, they’ve cleverly worked in the popular hashtag #firstapartment.


Use the templates below for a design with an instant hashtag!

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Keep in mind that too many hashtags can be annoying. Use them strategically and as a general rule of thumb, aim for no more than three. When designing hashtags, make sure they are unique, easy to remember, and as simple as possible.

Over to You

Phew! That’s a whole lot of information to digest. If you feel intimidated by the process, keep our tips open in a separate tab and walk through the process while referencing our article. Feel free to use it as a guide and you’ll be producing ads as full of impact as all the others we’ve shared above. Our last tip: Don’t forget to have fun infusing the magic of visual storytelling in your marketing strat!

If you’re already acting on some of the advice we’ve shared above as you create Instagram ads in Canva, we’d love to check out what you’ve been up to! Share your ads with us in the comment section below.

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