Instagram starts testing Facebook’s app-like Canvas ads within Stories feed

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Facebook is bringing its most creative ad format to its most creative app.

Over a year after Facebook said it would extend its Canvas ad format to Instagram, the photo-and-video app has started testing Canvas ads within people’s Stories feeds, an Instagram spokesperson confirmed.

“We are beginning to test an integration of Canvas with ads in Instagram Stories. Since the launch of ads in stories, we’ve been focused on delivering business value to advertisers and Canvas offers a seamless extension of the full screen immersive experience, helping marketers tell compelling brand and product stories,” said an Instagram spokesperson in an emailed statement.

The test is limited to certain brands buying ads through Instagram’s API, but an eventual official extension of Canvas to Instagram should be something of a no-brainer.

In September 2015, Facebook debuted the mobile-only, fast-loading ad format to appeal to brand advertisers craving to get more creative on the social network. Those are the same advertisers that initially flocked to Instagram for its creative community. At the time that Facebook added Canvas, the most inventive an advertiser could get on the social network was to stitch together a particularly compelling slideshow. That’s largely the case currently on Instagram.

The Canvas ad format is a creative kitchen sink. Similar to Apple’s iAd format, Canvas campaigns more closely resemble apps than ads. The full-screen Canvas can contain full-screen and in-line videos that play automatically, photo carousels and panoramic photos that people can swipe or tilt around to see more, as well as text and links.

Extending Canvas to Instagram could widen the ad format’s appeal. That appears to be a priority for Facebook this year after opening it up for use in organic Page posts last year. In April, Facebook plugged Canvas into its Marketing API so that brands could automate the ad’s creation through third-party software tools. Then in June, Facebook made the ad format even more plug-and-play through a few creative templates added to its self-serve ad-buying tool, such as one to showcase a particular product and another to present a full product catalog.

The move also appears to serve as further evidence that people are willing to swipe on Stories as well as Story ads; people will need to swipe up on a Story ad to see the Canvas attached to it. In November 2016, Instagram enabled verified profiles to attach links to their Stories that people could swipe up on to view. Then it introduced swipeable ads within Stories in May. According to several brands and publishers, links within Instagram Stories have become a legitimate traffic driver.

About The Author

Tim Peterson, Third Door Media’s Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat’s ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar’s attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon’s ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube’s programming strategy, Facebook’s ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking’s rise; and documented digital video’s biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed’s branded video production process and Snapchat Discover’s ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands’ early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo’s and Google’s search designs and examine the NFL’s YouTube and Facebook video strategies.


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