Nice to meet you.

Enter your email to receive our weekly G2 Tea newsletter with the hottest marketing news, trends, and expert opinions.

What are Facebook Instant Experience Ads (Canvas Ads) and How Do They Work?

November 28, 2018

In the last couple of years, you may have heard of an ad format that Facebook offers called Canvas Ads.

Recently, social media giant Facebook changed the name to Instant Experience ads, but the ad capabilities remain largely unchanged from the initial release, albeit with a few more bells and whistles.

So, what are Instant Experience ads and how can they work for your Facebook business page? This guide will walk you through the key aspects of how to add this format into your Facebook advertising mix.

What are Facebook Instant Experience (Canvas) ads?

Instant Experience ads, sometimes called Facebook canvas ads, essentially offer a microsite within the Facebook mobile experience. You can add photos, videos, slideshows, carousels, links, lead generation forms, and even connect your product catalog. The result is a dynamic, immersive experience that allows you express complex Facebook marketing messages to your target audience.

According to Facebook, Instant Experience ads load up to 15 times faster than standard mobile websites. If you typically see high bounce rates or low time on site for your website, the Instant Experience ad might be a potential solution. It allows you to give a website-like experience for your audience without them leaving the Facebook app, avoiding those issues with loading time and abandonment.

These ads are also a great option if you are looking for an ad format that can convey multiple ideas; the ad is built from various components, allowing you to customize what is in the ad. If you are launching a new product, looking to tell your brand story, or developing a larger campaign, the Instant Experience ad is a format you should consider.

How do Facebook Instant Experience ads work?

Instant Experience ads are a mobile-only format, so consider that when you begin planning. The ads can be built out Facebook’s Publishing Tools, in a special section called “Instant Experience (Canvas).” There, you can draft and preview your ad as it is built.

Prior to building the ad, you may consider creating a wireframe mockup of what the ad will look like. Will you use video, photos, or a carousel to tell your message? What will your audience be likely to interact with inside the ad? Once you’ve built a wireframe, simply select the components that correspond in the Instant Experience ad tool and add your creative. You can also preview the ad as you work, seeing how users will experience the ad on their mobile devices.

Once you’ve finalized your ad, you can create a newsfeed post and either publish to your profile and/or add the Instant Experience ad to a paid campaign. Be sure to boost to mobile users only. When your audience clicks on the newsfeed ad, rather than being taken to an outside site, they’ll be sent to the Instant Experience ad you’ve built out. There, they can interact with all the components you’ve placed within. If you have an active Facebook pixel on your site, it will be automatically activated with this ad format, allowing you to re-engage with anyone who interacted with the ad at a later date.

Do you use Facebook for work? Share your expert insights and write a review today.

Share your social media marketing insights: Write a Facebook Review →

Which brands are using Facebook Instant Experience ads?

Brands in nearly every sector have used canvas ads/Instant Experience ads, as the versatility of the format lends itself to many different types of messaging. You can find examples of retail, tech, corporate, travel, and even nonprofit brands using the format. Here’s a few impressive recent examples that give you an idea of what the ad can do.

West Elm Holiday Tree Inspiration

I get served a lot of West Elm ads thanks to my browsing activity related to home décor, so I was excited to see what they would do for the holidays. This Instant Experience ad clicks through to multiple carousels demonstrating different holiday looks consumers can replicate with West Elm products. The layout is simple and easy to follow, with multiple calls to get viewers to explore more on the site.


Sephora Good Gifts for All Guide

This Instant Experience ads clicks through to a square video that matches the newsfeed post; below it, featured images and product catalog components direct viewers to “Value Sets”, gifts under $25, gifts under $50, “In-Demand Gifts” and “Wow Gifts.” It’s essentially an online catalog all within the Facebook app, resulting in an excellent user experience. The final component directs shoppers to their nearest Sephora, helping encourage in-store traffic as well as online purchases.

KFC Boneless Blasta Game

If you are wondering just how wild you can go with an Instant Experience ad, look no further than this example from KFC. This one is better seen than explained - they’ve turned the format into a playable game that gives viewers discounts.


While your first few attempts at this ad format might not be as dynamic as these brands, even simpler versions have the potential to drive results for your business. Facebook has been kind enough to provide a wealth of case studies and success stories of brands who’ve been early adopters of the Instant Experience ad/canvas ad format. Head to Facebook Success Stories and filter the Product dropdown to Instant Experience to see more best-in-class examples of this ad format.

What insights are available for Instant Experience ads?

Facebook offers the standard analytics for Instant Experience ads via Ads Manager such as costs per click, impression and engagement, as well as totals for those categories. There are a few statistics provided that are unique to the format, like Canvas View Time and Canvas View Percentage. Canvas View Time refers to “the average total time, in seconds, that people spent viewing a Facebook Canvas,” while Canvas View Percentage is “the average percentage of the Facebook Canvas that people saw, based on the number of components viewed.” Don’t be surprised to see high totals here, as being able to add multiple interesting elements in these ads results in higher time spent with them.

Getting started with Instant Experience ads

I hope this guide gives you the steps and inspiration you need to develop your own Instant Experience Ad for your brand. Be sure to use Facebook’s templates to help determine the best components for your brand, and start building! 

What are Facebook Instant Experience Ads (Canvas Ads) and How Do They Work? Facebook Instant Experience ads, sometimes called Facebook Canvas ads, are a unique way to present your products to customers. Let's take a look at three major brands and how they're using Instant Experience ads to boost engagement.
Stephanie Purinton Stephanie Purinton is the Manager of Community Management at Ignite. She has worked closely with Fortune 500 CPG brands, as well as major retailers like Staples and Quill, delivering sharp strategic insights backed by quantitative and qualitative research. In addition to providing high-level channel and content strategies, Stephanie is skilled in the day-to-day execution of community management. She has managed brand communities with over 9 million members, and is eager to help new clients find their social voice.

Never miss a post.

Subscribe to keep your fingers on the tech pulse.

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to receive marketing communications from G2.