Instagram’s Creative Lead Shares 6 Reasons Marketers Should Embrace Vanishing Content

Fleeting doesn't have to mean forgettable

Illustration: Yuliya Kim

The advertising industry is changing, and new mobile formats are emerging every day. From shorter ads to disappearing Stories, these new formats are evolving the creativity game on mobile.

As the adage goes, “creativity happens within constraints.” The question becomes how we effectively tell brand stories on these new formats, with pre-roll viewership lasting for an average of just 1.7 seconds and disappearing formats like Instagram Stories that only live for 24 hours. While some in the industry may be shy to experiment with new formats and limitations, these emerging platforms have contributed to a newfound creativity in advertising.

Marketers should look at these constraints, particularly the ephemerality on Instagram Stories, as a massive opportunity. Here’s why:

1. It changes the way you approach storytelling

Ephemeral content, such as Stories, changes the way we have to think about creating brand stories. The lack of rules and the fleeting nature of this content can seem like a challenge to traditionally-minded creators used to producing for TV commercials, but Stories was built to allow advertisers freedom. Other than a 15-second cap for videos and 3 seconds for still images, there are no real rules or formulas for success. Content can be highly produced and polished, or quickly-created on a mobile phone and posted for millions to see moments later.

Recently, Lowe’s uploaded a series of 64 microvideos, each less than one second long, to create a flipbook effect that showcased transformations of small spaces. Since consumers tend to tap quickly through Stories, they created the short clips that go by faster than they can tap. This is just one example of the creativity that’s possible.

2. It’s an experience

Stories enables brands to create an immersive experience for people. The interactivity—forward, pause, backward, tapping and swiping—gets people to pay attention during lean-in states on mobile.

Last year, Bacardi teamed up with Swizz Beatz to release an Instagram Stories campaign that made their users feel as though they were DJs, manipulating the platform of Stories to make it as though their fingers were doing scratches. The content disappeared after 24 hours and was published to Bacardi’s feed after its expiration. This campaign epitomized the opportunity brands have to take the ephemeral platform of Stories and adapt it to their brand in a way that captures their users attention and keeps them coming back to see what they may have come up with next.

3. It’s flexible yet focused

The unique format allows advertisers to leverage the format to expand or compress their stories, allowing them to add dimension or extend their message within their campaign. Complex stories that have multiple messages can be tightened up to fit the modern attention spans of mobile users, or brands can use the space to stretch their story out.

Focusing attention on small details that are usually overlooked is a powerful experience for viewers.

For advertisers with specific needs, they can use Stories to highlight products or a brand story, day by day. A fashion label can share new collections, introduce a new style they’re working on, or take viewers on a trip inside their atelier. Focusing attention on small details that are usually overlooked is a powerful experience for viewers, allowing them to connect with specific, meaningful aspects of a brand.

4. It’s where people are

Instagram Stories now has 250 million daily actives. People under the age of 25 spend an average of more than 32 minutes a day on Instagram, while those age 25 and older spend more than 24 minutes a day. And during the time they choose to spend on the platform, they’re hungry for engaging content to interact with. That’s a huge opportunity for brands who are willing to get creative, do some experimenting with the medium and give people something new to love.

5. It’s a toolbox for creativity

Instagram has rolled out more than 20 new features in Stories since initially launching in August 2016. Stories offers immersive, full-screen capabilities as well as fun creative tools like Boomerang videos, new polling stickers, face filters, drawing tools and more. That means more opportunities to lean into the format, and less worrying about creating polished, expensive content better suited for broadcast TV. Each of these tools can elevate quickly-created content, making it highly personal and brand-specific.

6. It makes a lasting impression

Ephemerality makes images and video scarcer and more exclusive. These fleeting Stories drive urgency because viewers know that they don’t last forever, capitalizing on the FOMO that rises from knowing you might miss an opportunity to continue the experience. Brand content stops seeming like an advertisement, and instead acts as a compelling ongoing story that people are delighted to engage with.

Remember, just because it’s ephemeral doesn’t mean it’s not memorable.