In the series The inside story x 3, experts from the Plan.Net group regularly explain a current topic from the digital world from different perspectives. What does it mean for Granny, and for an agency colleague? And what does the customer – in other words, a company – get out of it?

What will we remember in a few years’ time when we look back on the internet of the late 2010s? Snapchat should be one of the first things that comes to mind. The quirky messaging app with the cute ghost, the user-friendliness of an ordinary SAP installation and the innovative augmented-reality lenses, which have convinced millions of adults that selfies with dog and cat faces are socially acceptable, even for those in their mid twenties.

However, the true legacy of Snapchat will surely be the invention of the story function. Stories, the sequences of photos and short video snippets with funny stickers, location information or drawings, have proven themselves an unparalleled online triumph. Stories are now common features on Facebook and Instagram, while Google has YouTube and now even an online search function for stories.

Granny’s holiday stories: The digital slideshow

For users, stories, on Facebook or Instagram for example, are an excellent way to share everyday experiences in a creative way with family, friends and acquaintances. Instead of the postcard and the obligatory slideshow evening afterwards, my Granny can post her images online while on holiday. Another nice feature is that stories can be deleted automatically after 24 hours, especially for snapshots that you do not want to share forever on your profile.

Creative minds have many possibilities. Through the simple combination of videos, photos, stickers, drawings and music, even technically inexperienced users can create and share appealing content in a short time.

Google’s integration of stories into search results is an exciting step. Standardising the format as a further development of the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project allows users to quickly and easily access news stories and visual content related to their desired search term or topic.

Stories as a media environment: Unlimited motion picture inventory

In addition to Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, after several months of testing, Facebook is now also providing the complete story inventory as an advertising environment for moving images. Adverts appear between individual story elements or between two different stories. However, one should not be dazzled by the potentially high range; for various reasons, the advertising environment is only relatively comparable with other InStream placements such as broadcaster media libraries or the classic YouTube.


Stories have a clear mobile format, and the content is used vertically. Therefore, it does not make sense to use classic TV adverts in 16:9 format as interruptive advertising. The usage situation is also subject to mobile rules: en route during situations involving waiting, with a high distraction potential and not reliant on headphone use. Ads for the story feed should therefore be adapted to these conditions; in this case, the same rules apply as for social feeds in general. Subtitles, short (five rather than fifteen seconds) and to the point with an obvious sender, instead of lengthy told stories with suspense and a final resolution. Unfortunately, there have not been many investigations into the advertising impact of ads in stories, but the effect is likely to be comparable to ads in the Facebook News Feed.

Brand stories: The perfect field for experimentation

Stories on Instagram, Facebook and other social platforms are an excellent field of experimentation for brand communication. There are diverse creative possibilities, from adverts in story format (such as for the new BMW 8 Series) to behind-the-scenes videos from events (such as Media Markt at Gamescom), Q&A formats and polls – stories make it possible for companies to stage their brand content in the style of the respective platform and to integrate organically into the user’s content experience.

Nevertheless, it is important to consider a few basic rules. Obviously, yet still often overlooked is the fact that if the content is not relevant, users will quickly move on. A high rate of scene changes and generally short stories fit better with smartphone usage, which means it goes without saying that 16:9 TV assets should not simply be recycled in a vertical video format. If you follow these rules, stories can also achieve good results: a survey commissioned by Facebook of just under 10,000 regular users of stories on Instagram in the UK, USA, Brazil and Indonesia showed that for 39 percent of users brand/product interest was increased through exposure to brands and products in stories.

And for those who uphold the sacred CI branding guidelines, there is perhaps a reassuring message: the same research has shown that users of stories expect authentic, playful and unfiltered images. As a brand, you do not have to demonstrate the same perfectionism in your creation as in print advertisements for news magazines.

About the author: Alex Turtschan has been a passionate nerd since childhood and has been working in the Serviceplan Group for more than ten years on consumer, market and technology trends and their effects on digital marketing. Currently Director Digital Strategy at Plan.Net Media.

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