Last week, we began our investigation into the differences between Facebook and Snapchat's ad platforms.

The first stop on our journey focused on the audiences in each - who you're able to target, and how.

This week, we'll be getting a little more creative - taking a look at the ad formats available to advertisers.

What do we mean by ad format?

This is the type of creative style available to you, for example a video ad or a photo ad.

Both platforms offer video and photo ads of course, but it's not as simple as that.

Each has a number of specific formats available - some restricted by placement or objective.

What ad formats does Facebook offer?

Facebook offer 8 different ad formats across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network.

They also offer a few add-on format styles that can only be used in conjunction with one of the main formats.

These are the 8 main Facebook ad format types:

You can jump to a specific section using the links below


  • Instant Experience
  • Catalogue
  • Offer

What ad formats does Snapchat offer?

Snapchat offer 5 different ad formats:

You can jump to a specific section using the links below

Add ons:

  • Catalogue

Understandably, there are more ad format types available in Facebook than there are in Snapchat. It's unlikely that this has to do with mere age alone, but due to the platforms available.

Facebook of course offers ads across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and the Audience Network. It makes sense that they'd need extra format styles for this (e.g. 'Messenger' itself).

Snapchat only enables you to advertise on, well, Snapchat.

Even looking solely at Facebook and Snapchat, there are different locations that ads can appear on both. These are called placements, which we've looked at previously for Facebook.

Don't worry to much about these for now, we'll go into them in more detail next week!

For now, we're focused on ad format. Let's explore what's on offer:

Facebook Photo Ad Format

Three guesses what you'll need for a photo ad.

Example photo ad within Facebook App

This is easily the simplest ad format offering, and quickest to create, with just a single image required.

When should you use a photo ad?

Facebook suggest that this is the most powerful ad type for driving people to your site. They even did a study on it...

Best practice:

  • Remember to ensure you have no more than 20% of your image occupied by text (or you'll be penalised with higher ad costs)
  • Have a single focus point, don't try to highlight multiple products in one image
  • Use high quality images
  • Maintain visual consistency if running multiple image ads
  • Keep on brand

Platform availability:
Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network and Messenger.

Facebook Video Ad Format

Moving away from the simplicity of a photo ad, Facebook has a number of recommendations for video ads.

They offer different guidance depending on the video length, ratio and placement. They also give guidance on combining video with another ad format (e.g. Carousel).

N.B. GIFs are counted as video ads.

Example video ad within Instagram

When should you use a video ad?

There's no easy answer to this one. On Facebook, it really comes down to whether you have the right creative skills - as high quality is expected here and on Instagram.

You can of course turn to stock footage, but stock footage tends to be easy to spot and not particularly eye-catching.

Videos are great for capturing attention, movement is more likely to draw the eye than a static image. You might want to use videos for branded content, quick explainer videos or GIFs.

Best practice

  • "Design for sound off, delight with sound on"
  • Make your message clear straight away
  • Capture attention within the first 3 seconds
  • Choose the right ratio (e.g. vertical vs. landscape)

Platform availability:
Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network and Messenger.

Facebook Stories Ad Format

These are vertical photo or video ads that appear solely inbetween a user's Instagram or Facebook stories.

Example Facebook Story Ad

By default photos are shown for 6 seconds, videos for 15 seconds. Users can then swipe up to access your landing page, lead gen form etc.

When should you use a Story ad?

These are great for lead generation or driving users to a particular product page. The ad is of course full screen, so it's great to turn a user's attention (quickly - you have a max of 15 seconds) to a particular product or service's benefits.

Best practice
As Stories are still relatively new to Facebook, there are no clear best practice guidelines. Facebook have however advised that, when asking users what they want from Story ads:

  • 52% wanted Stories that are quick and easy to understand
  • 50% want to be introduced to new products
  • 46% want brands to offer tips or advice

Platform availability:
Facebook, Instagram.

N.B. Facebook have noted that businesses can create 'organic' stories in Messenger and WhatsApp.

[UPDATE: Although no announcement has been made, it appears the ability to place ads in Messenger Stories is now live when creating an ad]

Facebook Messenger Ad Format

Facebook Messenger ads can be video, image or carousel ads, if placed in the Messenger inbox, where they appear between messages.

Example ad within Messenger App

N.B. If running a sponsored message campaign, you can only use an image

When should you use a Messenger Ad?

These ads are great for engaging users in conversation with your brand.

They're also brilliant ways to retarget customers who have previously talked to your business in Messenger. For example you might want to target users to let them know an item they enquired about is back in stock, or an update is available.

Don't use these ads unless you have the resources to use and support Messenger conversations.

Best practice
Facebook encourage the use of automation to make the most of your Messenger ads:

  • Set a welcome message
  • Set expectations with instant replies, e.g. detail response times
  • Personalise responses and follow up!

Platform availability:

Carousel ads are those ads you'll see with multiple images, allowing you to scroll through them at your leisure.

Example Carousel Ad in Facebook App

Facebook themselves advise that Carousel ads are best for:

  • Showing off multiple products
  • Highlighting the features of a single product
  • Getting users to engage with the ad
  • Explaining a process

Best practice

  • Work the format, start with your most engaging image to encourage users to swipe further.
  • Ensure your images are placed in a logical order, so it makes sense for the user to continue.
  • Keep a consistent 'look' across the images so that none feel out of place

Platform availability:
Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network and Messenger.

Facebook Slideshow Ad Format

Slideshow ads are great ways to create video ads...without the need for video. You can use short videos, or just load a series of images which - together with motion, sound and text - create a fast loading video ad.

Example Slideshow ad in Facebook app

When should you use a Slideshow Ad?

Facebook's guidance for slideshow ads generally hinges on budget, resources and time. For example, if you perhaps lack the creative resources for a video ad - but don't want to stick with something static - slideshows are a great compromise.

It's also great if you need to create something quickly, and a single image just won't do it for you - or you need to explain something complex in simple stages.

These ads are often used for reaching users in places with slow collections, where high spec video may not load.

Best practice
Keep it simple, keep it short.

As with carousel ads, work the format. Present your slides in a logical order, engage from the off and pull your audience deeper into your story.

Platform availability:
Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network and Messenger.

Facebook Collection Ad Format

Collection ads will display a series of product images. They feature a primary video or image, with four smaller accompanying images below.

These ads are linked to 'instant experiences'. Fast loading full screen bolt-ons that allow users to explore further without leaving Facebook.

Example Facebook Collection Ad

When should you use a Collection Ad?

Handily, there are four different templates available for the collection format. These are based on your objective:

  • Instant storefront
  • Instant lookbook
  • Instant customer acquisition
  • Instant storytelling

Best practice
These ads are all about drawing users in. You'll need high quality, consistent imagery that complements the main image/video and clearly fits with your brand.

Platform availability:
Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook Playables Ad Format

This one is strictly for game app advertisers.

It's an interactive video ad that allows users to try-before-they-buy with a preview of your game. It's a modern twist on the old school demo.

Example Playable Ad in Facebook

When should you use a Playable Ad?

When you have a game available in the App Store to sell...

It's a great way to engage users and get them playing right from the ad, before they even own your app.

Best practice
Along with the usual guides to test, test, test and tailor your creatives? Facebook kindly provide users with a list of best practice guidelines for their new playables ads:

  • Grab attention with video
  • Make the demo clear and fun
  • Make sure your demo is an accurate representation of real game play
  • Remember your audience will be new to the game, so ensure your demo and creatives reflect this

Right, that's your lot on Facebook!

Let's move on to what ad formats Snapchat has to offer:

Snapchat Snap Ads Ad Format

Snap ads are full screen vertical images, sound-on videos, gifs or cinemagraphs that appear within Stories and premium content.

Users then swipe up to access/land on your chosen attachment, e.g. landing page, lead generation form or app deep link.

(For comparison purposes, the Facebook equivalent is a Facebook Story Ad).

Example Snap Ad in Snapchat

When should you use a Snap Ad?

This is probably the most common ad format type on Snapchat, because it's suitable for all objectives.

It's a great way to get started on Snapchat and test out different creative types, to see what resonates with your audience.

Best practice

  • Feature a hero message in the opening frame, don't leave your branding and message until the end!
  • Remember your audience and location - fit in with Snapchat's native style.
  • The maximum length is 10 seconds, but Snapchat recommend 3-5. It's 2019, keep it tight people!

Snapchat Collection Ad Format

Snapchat's collection ads are pretty similar to Facebook's. You have your main full screen creative, with four additional images from your product catalogue.

Example Snapchat Collection Ad

When should you use a Collection Ad?

This one is perfect for e-commerce. Upload that catalogue and get users shopping with deep links to individual products.

Best practice
Unlike Snap Ads - where unpolished, natural, straight to camera creatives appear to reign supreme - this is likely where you'll need to be more polished.

You're asking users to shop with you, so you'll need to put the effort it with high quality product imagery and an eye-catching, relevant creative.

  • Snapchat recommends still keeping all main creatives between 2-5 seconds.
  • Keep your creative simple to drive attention to your product thumbnails
  • Ensure you only feature one product per thumbnail

Snapchat Story Ad Format

Story ads are a series of Snaps that users access by selecting a sponsored tile in Discover. The tile image is static, which users then tap to open a Story of 3-20 snap ads shown in sequence.

Example Story Ad Tile in Snapchat Discover Feed

When should I use the story ad format?

This one is perfect for the consideration stages of the funnel, where you have the opportunity to tell users a deeper, richer story.

It might be that you want to tell the story of your brand, showcase your products in action or take the time to simplify something complex.

With a minimum of 3 snaps required, make sure you have a story worth telling.

Best Practice

  • Ensure your brand logo pops on the static tile image so users can identify your content in their feed
  • Keep your tile photo and headline copy clear and honest. It should be an accurate reflection of what users will find in your story.
  • Use your tile as the introduction, not the first snap - you should drop users straight into the action.

Snapchat Filter Ad Format

Snapchat filters are 'artistic overlays that Snapchatters can add to the photos and videos they take on Snapchat.'

Example Snapchat Filter Ad

When should I use a Snapchat filter ad?

These ads are likely to be more expensive than your Snap, Collection and Story Ads. As the filters don't send the user anywhere, they're not the right fit for shoppable ads or trackable conversions.

These are more suited to brand awareness, engagement and loyalty.

It's a great way for brands to make themselves known to new audiences or to launch new products.

You can overlay smart text in filter ads, including a user's name, location and local time. This is great for personalisation - but perhaps the most useful for advertisers is the countdown. If you're a big brand teasing a new product launch, you could create a filter that encourages engagement - whilst building excitement!

This one's probably best avoided for smaller organisations without the creative resources required. (Or the brand presence to make an impact).

Best practice

  • Filters should be simple, with the motto 'frame, don't block' as they're added after a user has already taken their photo or video.
  • Filters should complement your product/service, and be relevant to the types of activities your customers undertake.
  • Don't forget your logo and branding, obviously. When users share their Snaps with your filter on? You're going to want that free publicity.

Snapchat AR Lens Ad Format

Lenses are interactive, in-camera, augmented reality experiences on Snapchat.

Example Snapchat AR Lens Ad

There are two main styles with AR lenses:

  • Face lens - This is where the technology manipulates the user's eyes, mouth, head and shoulders to manipulate their face.
  • World lens - This is where you can map the surface of the world within the user's camera, or place a 3D object for them to interact with.

Now this one is the most complex of all the ad formats. If you think Filters required more than your standard do-it-yourself fare, AR lenses are something else.

For most people, creating an AR lens ad will involve working directly with Snapchat's AR development team or a Snapchat Lens partner.

They did however release their Lens Studio to the public in December 2017. The lens studio is where artists, developers and animators can create their own lenses.

This is a big deal, if you have the creative and technical know-how to do this. You can then upload your custom-built AR lens directly into Ads Manager.

When should I use the AR Lens format?

Firstly, if you've got the in-house knowledge (or money) to develop a lens.

If you've got that, and you've got a product or service that you could make relevant using a augmented reality? Then go for it.

It's obviously a great fit for film and television, where production companies can generate buzz for their latest release. But it's definitely a growing trend in the B2C space for big brands too.

Food, drink, beauty, fashion and furniture brands have also found great success. For example the ability to test out products 'before you buy them' by placing them in a user's home is a great way to encourage shopping right from the app.

Best practice
This one is all about imagination, creativity, skill and relevance.

It's all very well creating something that users will enjoy playing with - but can you combine that 'play' with consideration and education?

If playing with your AR lens helps a user have fun whilst testing out your product, you're on to a winner.

Let's breakdown of the similarities and differences between Facebook and Snapchat's ad formats

What can you do in both?

Facebook's photo, video and stories ads are all matched in Snapchat's Snap Ads. Both platform's collection ads are near identical.

What ad formats can you use in Facebook but not Snapchat?

You can't create a Sponsored Message ad in Facebook like you can in Snapchat, which makes sense. Messenger is a separate platform, and there's no real structure for business messaging in Snapchat.  

Snapchat also don't have Carousel, Slideshow or Playables options.

The first two make sense due to Facebook also being accessible via desktop, where these types perhaps work best. The ability to 'play' is already there in Snapchat, so perhaps playable demos aren't far off...

It's also worth mentioning that of course while all ads in Snapchat contain photos or video, Facebook's photo and video ads can be delivered in landscape format, e.g. for desktop delivery and on partner networks. We'll come to this when we discuss placements next week.

What ad formats are available in Snapchat but not Facebook?

AR Lenses and Filters are the biggest players in the Snapchat world that aren't currently available in Facebook.

Given that lenses and filters have always been a key part of Snapchat's offering, this is unsurprising. These are the big boys of the Snapchat world, loved by big brands.

With that in mind - and given the introduction of Stories in Facebook - it's probably a matter of time before Facebook introduce something similar.

Snapchat Ad Formats Vs. Facebook Ad Formats - who wins?

There's no real winner here. The basic, suitable-for-every-advertiser capabilities are available on both platforms.

Video, imagery, gifs and cinemagraphs are within the grasp of any advertiser, if they're willing to put the effort in. There are easy to create ad formats using this content on both Facebook and Snapchat.

It's worth noting that low-fi, natural, straight-to-camera content performs strongly on Snapchat. Where historically video is expected to have a high production value on Facebook, this will bode well for budget-conscious and time restricted advertisers.

On the flip side, Snapchat also obviously offers the more expensive, futuristic AR lens capability. This will please brands trying to stand out and make an impact - particularly with the lens studio now in place. This sort of interactive, personal ad type isn't available in Facebook.

When it comes to the number of options available that are (relatively) easy to create - Facebook offers more. Yes Carousel and Slideshow ads aren't the most exciting of formats - or Sponsored Messages - but these are perhaps the styles B2B advertisers would benefit from the most.

For game developers, the new playable format will be absolute gold.


Both platforms offer great visual advertising opportunities.

Snapchat offers a more personal opportunity to connect with customers, where low-fi, short videos can outshine big budgets. Facebook, as we covered last week, obviously presents a greater audience - but more competition. They've also served advertisers for 10 years, so have honed their format offering.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of just what's possible on both platforms. From the simplest, cheapest options - to the futuristic try-before-you buy and AR capabilities.

For new advertisers, the best thing to do is - say it with me now - test, test, test.

Test out Facebook photo, video, collection and story ads. Try the same creatives using Snap Ads, Snapchat story ads and Snapchat collection ads.

Where are you reaching your audience? Which platform is bringing you your desired results? What does the data tell you in terms of cost and success?

Don't forget that certain ad formats will be restricted by the ad placement. It might well be that your preference for a particular ad format is influenced by where you can place it on Facebook or Snapchat....

You didn't think they'd make it as simple as 'choose your format and show it anywhere you like' did you?

We'll delve into the available placements next week, and how these impact which ad formats you're able to use.

Ready to get creative and put your Facebook and Snapchat ads head to head?

Grab your free 7 day trial of TrustAds here!


  1. TrustAds Blog - What are Facebook and Instagram Placements?
  2. Facebook Business - Combinations that work
  3. Snapchat - Lens Studio

Further reading:

  1. Facebook for Business - Photo ads
  2. Facebook for Business - Video ads
  3. Facebook for Business - Story ads
  4. Facebook for Business - Messenger ads
  5. Facebook for Business - Carousel ads
  6. Facebook for Business - Slideshow ads
  7. Facebook for Business - Collection ads
  8. Facebook for Business - Playable ads
  9. Snap Business - Snap Ads
  10. Snap Business - Collection Ads
  11. Snap Business - Story Ads
  12. Snap Business - AR Lens Ads
  13. Snap Business - Filter Ads
  14. Marketing Land - Snapchat brings AR lenses to self serve