August 24, 2020

The 6 Best Instagram Ads & What They All Have in Common

To engage with modern audiences, you’ll need Insta ads with wit, humor, and brand-right messaging like these examples.

Insta Ads

With over a billion active users, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms on the planet, as well as one of the best places to advertise. Captivating Instagram ads use high-quality photos or videos and a minimalist approach to copy to appear native to users’ feeds. But with so many vibrant images vying for users’ attention, how does one create a successful Instagram ad campaign? We’ve compiled some of the best Instagram ads to give you some ideas.


Jump to a section…

What Are Instagram Ads?
Best Instagram Ad 1: Hims
Best Instagram Ad 2: Farmers Insurance
Best Instagram Ad 3: Calm
Best Instagram Ad 4: Uber
Best Instagram Ad 5: Arby’s
Best Instagram Ad 6: Armed Heist
How to Make the Best Instagram Ads for Your Brand

What Are Instagram Ads?

An Instagram ad is an advertisement on the photo-based social media platform Instagram. Simple, right?

Well, not quite. There are actually quite a few different types of Instagram ads, as well as ways your potential customers can interact with them. Advertising on Instagram isn’t as simple as posting a pretty picture; a lot of strategy and analysis goes into creating the best Instagram ads.

Types of Instagram Ads

Even though they’re all focused on visuals, these Instagram ad sizes and techniques vary dramatically.

  • Photo: Some things are classics for a reason. This basic ad type appears in users’ Instagram feeds.
  • Stories: With over 500 million daily users, Stories is one of Instagram’s most popular features. Stories Ads make full use of the mobile screen, rather than sharing real estate with other posts.
  • Video: Instagram allows video ads up to 120 seconds long in either landscape or square format.
  • Carousel: Ideal for retailers and other companies with visual products, these ads let viewers swipe through for additional photos.
  • Explore: By appearing in Instagram’s Explore feature, these ads reach users who are looking beyond their own feeds to find something new.

How to Advertise on Instagram

There are several ways to advertise on Instagram, either through the app itself or with a trusted ad partner.

  • Within the app: Advertisers can pay to promote a post they’ve shared. It’s the easiest way to go, but usually not the most effective.
  • Ads Manager: Using the same advertising tools as parent company Facebook, Ads Manager helps marketing pros create campaigns and see basic results.
  • Partners: Designated Instagram Partners provide services from buying ads to finding creative.
  • Digital Marketing Strategy Partners: It’s always useful to work with external digital marketing strategists, preferably with companies that use their own platform and machine learning to analyze results for the best possible ad optimization.

Best Instagram Ad 1: Hims

Best Instagram Ads - hims

What hims does well:

  • Consistent color scheme throughout
  • Shows what each product looks like

This carousel ad from men’s health startup hims uses a brand-right, soothing color palette that’s consistent from frame to frame, creating a fluid brand journey for viewers. This tone is ideal considering that hims offers solutions for subjects that make some men uncomfortable, such as hair loss and erectile dysfunction. The brand further lowers the intimidation factor by showing what these products actually look like outside of their containers and in use.

Best Instagram Ad 2: Farmers Insurance

Best Instagram Ads - Farmers Insurance

What Farmers Does Well:

  • Incorporates a humorous, recognizable meme
  • Backs it up with a true story
  • Cute animal

There’s a tried and true method of grabbing attention that’s worked since the early days of the internet: use cute animals. Insurance company Farmers did this well by not only showing off an image of a lovable goat, but tying it to the well-known dog-shaming meme. As if that wasn’t clever enough, the message is tied to a true story from a real customer, which shows viewers that this is more than just lip service.

Best Instagram Ad 3: Calm

Best Instagram Ads - Calm

What Calm Does Well:

  • Brand-right imagery
  • Soothing text

In 2020, we’re all doing a lot of doomscrolling. This video ad for meditation app Calm stops users in their tracks and invites them to take a breath, something that’s sorely needed. The background image is relaxing, and everything about the text, from the font choice to placement, creates a calming oasis in a sea of bad news. By incorporating Instagram video best practices, this ad makes you want to take a deep breath and chill, which is what makes it one of the best Instagram ads.

Best Instagram Ad 4: Uber

Best Instagram Ads - Uber

What Uber Does Well:

  • Knows its audience
  • Disguises useful information as a fun distraction

Normally, taking a quiz about a rideshare app isn’t exactly an attractive proposition unless you’re actively looking for a distraction. As the marketing wizards at Uber know, that’s exactly what many people scrolling through Instagram during the workday are doing. With a simple, funny call to action, “Avoid work for 1 minute and take this quiz,” Uber instantly hooks users with this Stories ad and then bombards them with trivia and tips, increasing engagement by using the interactive features Instagram provides.

Best Instagram Ad 5: Arby’s

What Arby’s Does Well:

  • Excellent use of geek culture
  • Integrates food with art

People who still watch TV with commercials (read: boomers) might not know this about Arby’s, but when it comes to social media ads, the fast-food sandwich brand has spent the last few years going after an untapped market: nerds. By dropping video game and anime references into its ads, Arby’s immediately welcomes its audience to be part of the inside joke. These kinds of Instagram ads also tend to net lots of engagement, like reposts and comments.

Best Instagram Ad 6: Armed Heist

What Armed Heist Does Well:

  • Shows actual gameplay
  • Animated CTA

When Swedish mobile game developer Sozap wanted to advertise its flagship product, Armed Heist, the company teamed up with yellowHEAD’s creative studio for an innovative Instagram Stories ad. Splitting the screen in half horizontally, the top half of the ad features in-game action, while the bottom half displays an engaging, animated call to action that encourages viewers to swipe up and play. This strategy was so successful that it resulted in an 82% lift in ROAS, with 68% of iOS revenue coming directly from Instagram Stories.

How to Make the Best Instagram Ads for Your Brand

These stellar Instagram ads share some best practices: brand-right but unobtrusive messaging, attractive imagery, humor, minimalism. However, it takes more than that to create ads that increase user acquisition and engagement, especially on a platform as saturated as Instagram.

With the right marketing partner, you can find out what creative approaches resonate with your audience by using intelligent data analysis to pinpoint exactly what works. That’s what our proprietary creative tech platform, Alison, was designed to do: recognize creative elements and deliver strategic recommendations using a combination of expert optimization and machine learning. In other words, yellowHEAD’s creative strategists personally deliver the first round of analysis, and then our algorithms take the helm to optimize that data. By bringing together marketing strategists, AI technology, and data, we help companies make the most of their advertising budgets and grow their brands.

Ready to make your mark on Instagram with compelling, engaging ads? Contact us to get started.

Want to learn more about other online ad formats? Check out our guide Online Ad Formats: The Ultimate Guide to Creative Optimization

Let's talk Marketing
Get in touch!