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11 Things I learned Art Directing an Instagram Stories workshop

Social & Mobile • Written by Daria Willis - Creative Strategist

It wouldn’t be news to anyone to hear that Facebook and Instagram represent huge opportunities for brands to reach audiences. But simply just being there isn’t enough. To really cut through, drive return on investment and see measurable impact, brands need to create effective, considered content made for platform – cognisant of the expectations of their audience who are on it. New mantra? Cut out the cut downs.

What gives me the authority on this? Well despite ticking every brand’s dream audience box (digital native, early adopter and grocery buyer), Genero is a Facebook Business Partner and we help Facebook’s clients globally to produce assets for Facebook and Instagram via our global creative platform.

Part of our offering is holding Instagram Stories Workshops or Sprints where we team up with Facebook, their key clients and our motion designers for a one-day in person collaboration. The goal is to concept and produce 3x Instagram Stories assets and 1x static image at the Sprint, all following best practice principles as identified by Facebook.

Here are a few key take-aways I’ve learned from Art Directing these events.

1. You can have it all, but not at the same time

Instagram stories has HUGE potential, with an endless amount of unique features that make platform-centric creative. BUT, you have to use it wisely. It’s only 15 seconds – employ the features that enhance your specific message.

2. Instagram stories are transient – embrace it

Unlike costly outdoor billboards, Stories Ads are ephemeral so have some fun with your brand’s tone and message. You’ll learn from it, and engage a new audience. Iteration is key – keep testing and learning, you never quite know what will stick until you try it.

3. The word ‘sprint’ is not figurative

Facebook is a big building and break out rooms in close proximity are hard to nab. My AppleWatch has never been prouder of me.

4. Think audience first

Instead of just trying to put all of your brand messages into a 15 second vertical ad space, think about what will mean something to the demographic browsing their stories, and what mindset they’re in. They’re probably looking to be entertained, be presented with an offer or learn something new.

5. Good ideas come from everywhere

A very **famous** former CEO at a big global creative agency I worked for in Sydney once said: ‘Just because people are employed to come up with ideas, it doesn’t mean others do not have them. Where possible, invite everyone to the brainstorm – one of our best campaigns came from the cleaner’. This rang true on the day – we had a collection of designers, social media managers, marketing managers, client directors and event organisers – and it was incredible to see the idea jamming that was happening, and where those ideas were coming from.

"Just because people are employed to come up with ideas, it doesn’t mean others do not have them."

6. Motion designing is a craft and a science

Watching the motion designers concept and build with code and lift assets from multiple locations at the speed of light was truly mesmerising. We are not worthy.

7. Design story ads like a map

Use images, motion and graphics (plus native Instagram ad-ons, like emoticons) to literally SHOW the user what to do and where to look. Our travel clients used plane icons to drag up their swipe ups, motion and arrows to encourage new followers to their brand icon. Be literal, but have fun with it.


Virgin Atlantic


Sunday Times


Thom Olsen

8. Brand identity is more than a logo

Want to drive brand recall? Slap on a logo. Also want to turn people off as soon as they realise it’s an ad? Slap on a logo. Branding is important, but there are ways you can use it to enhance your story rather than detract from it. In addition to brand colours and fonts, think about how brand products, icons and sounds can land your brand if they act as heroes of your story.

9. Get crafty with carousels

You can get all meta and create a story within a story if you treat individual stories as chapters, and build a carousel. A clever way to use this format is by breaking the third wall – like this Lowes example (which is now possible using Instagram story ads).

10. Creative genius’ require a lot of snacks

Thankfully we were covered at Facebook’s awesome Sydney headquarters – I donut know how their employees continue to fit in their clothes.

11. Be clear on your KPI

Begin with the end when it comes to Instagram Stories. Is your KPI engagement? Then include polls, questions or other interactions. Is your KPI Direct Response? Give the user a clear CTA and a reason to swipe up. Remember, they came to social for fun, not for ads – you’re asking them to change route, you have to make it worth it. Stick to a single KPI and your creative, and results, will be better for it.

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