Understanding Facebook Ad Formats – And What They Are Best For


9 mins

Facebook Ad Formats

Table of Contents

Facebook has close to three billion monthly active users, and 15% of them shop on this platform regularly. 

However, the social network giant plays host to more than 80 million business pages. So if you want to stand out here, you have your work cut out for you. 

Most business owners recognise its marketing potential and the challenges that it presents. What trips some of them up is knowing which Facebook ad format would drive the most results for them. 

If this is a problem for you too, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll discuss the different Facebook ad formats and which ones you should use depending on your business goals.

Facebook ad formats

Facebook is like a bottomless well of potential customers, clients, and buyers. That said, this isn’t the only thing that makes it the go-to platform for most marketers and business owners.

What makes Facebook even more effective is that it offers different ad formats. 

This feature is critical because not all ad formats are created equal. Some of them are more finely tuned to certain objectives or audiences than others. 

By using the ones that align most with what you’re trying to do, you can dramatically accelerate your growth, whatever stage your business is in. 

We’ll be talking about six primary Facebook ad formats. There are others, but these are the most popular ones:

1. Image ads

Using image ads is the oldest form of Facebook advertising, but it has managed to remain one of the go-to formats for digital marketers. That’s because it’s easy to use, and the setup process is very simple.

Plus, all ads on Facebook and even its sister company Instagram must have an image, with the lone exception of video ads. 

One of the many reasons why image ads work so well is that they cater to a wide range of business objectives. So whether it’s Brand Awareness, Store Traffic, Engagement, or Reach that you’re after, there’s a perfect photograph for you to use. 

2. Video ads

Most people prefer to watch a video than read something to get the information that they need. So if you’re trying to drive awareness for your brand, it would make a lot of sense for you to create a video ad.

Video is a very engaging format that can trigger emotions, which is a great way to build a long-term relationship with your target audience. On top of this, a great video is clickbait when it comes to views, likes, and, more importantly, shares, which allows you to reach more potential customers. 

Another thing you would like about video ads is that it’s one of the more affordable formats on social media. That’s because you’ll be paying for each view instead of clicks. So you can get free traffic from highly engaged users.

Granted, using a video makes your message a bit susceptible to interpretation because different people have different ways of understanding what they see. Nevertheless, it’s the more convenient and efficient approach by far.

3. Slideshow ads

A slideshow ad is made using motion, sound, and text, which is very similar to how video ads are created. However, it requires fewer resources and is easier to execute, which is great if your marketing resources are a bit limited. In addition, it doesn’t require the expenses or challenges that typically come with video production.

Slideshow ads are quite effective, whatever your campaign objectives are. That’s because it’s very flexible in terms of its creative process. 

You can use stock images or an existing video straight from your Page and come up with a compelling slideshow ad within minutes. What’s more, you can do all these using a desktop or a mobile device.

Another reason why some marketers prefer slideshow ads is that it requires five times less data than video ads. So even people with a slower connection will be able to view your ads. 

4. Carousel ads

With a carousel ad, you can showcase up to ten images in a single ad, and each one would have its own link. So if you want people to get to know your products or services, this would be the way to go. It’s also a great tool for telling your story piecemeal across each card.

The format of carousel ads allows you to put together different pieces of relevant content and then guide users to a number of your site pages. It can help you drive brand awareness, reach more of your target audience and attract more traffic.

Note that you have the option to let Facebook decide the sequence of your images, depending on the performance of each card. However, if you’re trying to tell your brand story in stages, make sure that you disable the automatic optimisation feature.

5. Collection ads

Collection ads offer an easy way for your target audience to discover, browse through, and even buy any of your offerings. It offers an immersive user experience from the time they first encounter your product to the time that they’re ready to make a purchase. 

With a collection ad, you can take different ad creatives, including videos, images, and slideshows, and combine them with three product images from your catalogue to create a grid-like layout.

Anyone who clicks on your ad will be treated to a fast-loading experience without having to leave Facebook or Instagram. With this approach, you can meet different business goals, including Store Traffic, Conversion, and Catalogue Sales. 

6. Instant experience

Formerly known as Canvas, Instant Experience allows you to create a fast-loading full-screen destination for your ads. You can integrate it into all available ad formats, including slideshow, carousel, single image, single video, or collection. 

With Instant Experience, people can enjoy the benefits of an engaging video or image one second and then swipe through carousels the next. They can also explore high-quality images that have tagged products. 

Even better, they can do all these things in a single ad.

Note that Instant Experience is designed for mobile devices only. Nevertheless, it’s compatible with both iOS and Android. Also, mobile internet accounts for 60% of all web traffic and even more in mobile-first markets like Asia and Africa. 

So whatever your business goal is, whether it’s to acquire new customers, grow your business, introduce your brand, or inspire people to do more mobile shopping, Instant Experience can get it done for you.

Increasing brand awareness

As mentioned above, your Facebook ad objective should guide you in your choice of ad format. You should also consider it when deciding where on Facebook (or Instagram, for that matter) your ad should appear. 

One of the primal advertising objectives is to increase brand awareness. What you want here is to generate interest in your products or services by obtaining views from your target audience or niche market. 

You must put your ads not only in front of as many eyeballs as possible but unique users as well. This way, more people will know that your business exists and that you potentially have the solution to their pain points.

With this in mind, image ads would make a great option, but you would do well to maximise your video ads. This format is the most effective when it comes to telling your brand story and getting people to care about it. 

Also, Facebook users are more likely to share an eye-catching video, which helps you reach more of your target demographic at a much faster rate. This is especially true if your ad goes viral and the shares start piling up.

That said, note that likes, views, and other forms of user interaction are also great sources of social proof that will help you draw more attention to your brand. 

How to create compelling video ads

When making your video ads, make sure that they focus on the entire customer journey, from engagement to conversion. The video length sweet spot is between ten seconds and two minutes, as it has proven to generate the most results. You should also consider doing a hybrid of video and image ads.

Note that since you’re still increasing brand awareness, most of your target audience hasn’t had the chance to interact with your products or services yet. So if you’re not careful, there’s a good chance that they’ll see your ads as intrusive, especially if you’re being too salesy or aggressive with your pitch.  

So if you want to drive meaningful engagement, try to go for the softer sell. That said, don’t be afraid to be controversial, as this will encourage the start of conversations and boost engagement.

A good strategy that you could try when targeting a cold audience is to show them a short video ad and then retarget those who viewed it with a promotional blog.

Increasing traffic

If you feel that you have achieved the level of brand recognition you want but aren’t comfortable with the number of visits your Page, site, or app is getting, then you should focus on increasing traffic.  

In this situation, your top options in terms of ad format would be image ads, video ads, and carousel ads. 

Image ads

The beauty of using image ads to increase traffic to your chosen online destination is that it’s more effective compared to other ad formats, especially if you manage to find the right visuals. 

Remember that when trying to get people to visit your website or Page, all you have to do is pique their curiosity just enough for them to take action. You don’t have to worry about telling your brand story or educating your target audience.

A nice image with the appropriate caption, a meme, or a picture of a new product feature or service is usually enough to make your target audience curious. 

Video ads

Aside from images, videos are particularly effective in driving traffic since they also do an excellent job of capturing the attention of your target audience. They can be informational and entertaining at the same time, which helps you deliver your value proposition without scaring your audience away. 

What makes video ads worth investing in is that they can generate high-quality leads, not just visits from random users that have no genuine interest in your products or services. As a result, you can build an audience base of users that are easier to convert later on into paying customers.

Note that video ads are more potent when paired with another ad format that can retarget your audience with direct website clicks. 

Carousel ads

One issue with videos is that they are so interesting that sometimes, people tend to scroll to the next one and watch it without taking other forms of action, like going to your website. 

That is where carousel ads come into play. 

Carousel ads are more interactive, and Facebook users are more likely to engage with them. That’s because every tile contains a link that people can click. It means that there’s a higher chance that they’ll go to one of the online destinations of your choice.

Generating conversions

If you’re focus is the bottom of the marketing funnel, you’re more concerned with converting leads into sales and eventually into loyal customers. In this stage, there isn’t one ad format that stands out in particular. 

Your choice will ultimately depend on your actual ad campaign or the type of audience that you’re after, which would vary from one business to another. That said, most marketers prefer the following ad formats for generating conversions:

Video ads

A video ad is a powerful marketing tool if you want to get people to buy one of your products or use your services. That’s because, when done properly, a video can capture your target audience’s interest and connect them to you in a meaningful way. 

Once you get them emotionally invested in your brand, they’re more likely to move forward and make a purchase when the need arises. 

On top of this, a video can deliver more information, piquing more interest and guiding purchasing decisions more effectively. In addition, it creates a trusting relationship with your target audience, which you can capitalise on with a sale.

For a successful giveaway, ensure your campaign has clear goals and objectives. You should also plan about its rules, prizes, and entry requirements for participation, but make sure you’re following Facebook’s rules and guidelines to avoid.

Image ads

For years, the classic image ad has been generating conversions by providing highly targeted impressions at a much higher volume. Its ability to bring out a direct response from Facebook users was and still is hard to beat.

One of the biggest reasons behind its success is that Facebook has a lot more newsfeed inventory compared to any other ad format. 

Instant experience

Ads with instant experience are designed to hold the attention of Facebook users and keep them on the platform until they’re ready to make a purchase. 

A catalogue ad infused with instant experience is particularly effective in removing potential barriers and possible bounce points throughout the customer journey. That’s why it’s a great option when it comes to generating conversions. 

Aside from catalogue sale ads, carousel ads also perform well when imbued with instant experience.

Lead generation

A lead generation ad is designed to obtain the contact information of Facebook users while they’re on the platform. It gives potential customers a fast and easy way to sign up for your service, which will do wonders for your conversion rate. 

Another reason why lead generation ads are very effective at conversion is that they don’t disrupt the user experience. Instead, they pop up at the right moments and do not require much time and effort, so people are more likely to fill them up.

In addition, this ad format targets people who are more or less interested in your brand. As a result, they end up becoming high-quality leads that are easier to convince when the time comes for them to make a purchase.

Dynamic products

In a world overrun by ads and other marketing strategies, people can become immune to such tactics. But unfortunately, the same is true for Facebook users. 

One way to overcome this challenge is not to bombard them with more ads but to show them more relevant ones. That’s where dynamic product ads come in. 

With a dynamic product ad, you create a template that automatically uses images and information from your data feed. It then comes up with ads for products similar to those your visitors have shown interest in. 

Showing someone the exact item they like in the right size is a great way to maximise the return on your ad spending.

To analyze the best times to post, you can use analytics tools to see when most of your target audience is active.

To optimise your timing, you can experiment with different times of day, and different days of the week, to determine when your audience will be most active and adjust your schedule accordingly.


While not technically an ad format, retargeting campaigns always come up during lead generation and conversion discussions, and for a good reason. 

It’s not in the nature of most consumers to buy from a brand after visiting its website or Facebook page for the first time. That’s why most marketers rack their brains trying to find ways to bring users back.  

Once people become more familiar with a brand and its offerings, they become more open to its sales pitches and are more likely to make a purchase. However, it might take at least two or three visits for this to happen.

It’s important to understand that there are different Facebook ad formats and that each one has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. You can’t just blindly pick one and then expect your campaign to deliver outstanding results. 

Hopefully, this guide will point you in the right direction. You could also try using different tools to sort through heaping piles of unorganised information so you can track the performance of your ad campaigns. 

Reporting Ninja has a Facebook Ad reporting feature that serves exactly this purpose. It has predefined report templates, widgets, calculated metrics, and everything you need to supercharge your ad campaigns. 

Sign up now for a free trial and see how Reporting Ninja can help you maximise your Facebook ads and achieve your business goals.

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