TLDR: Once thought of as a TikTok imitator, Meta’s Reels has become Instagram’s fastest growing feature. The reason for Reels’ success is simple: users like it. This straightforward fact has seen Meta’s algorithm reward pages that use it effectively. Hence Reels is a powerful tool for advertisers looking to reach new audiences and drive performance. However, creating effective Reels ads requires more than just repurposing existing video content. To truly succeed on the platform, you need to understand the unique characteristics of Reels and how to optimize your creative for this format.

Excellent Reels creative relies upon 3 major elements; optimized video specifically for Reels, building creative with audio, and keeping safe zones in mind. Not using creative that is specific to Reels very well might be the difference between getting your ad seen and having your ad get lost amongst your competition. Research shows that adding these “native” Reels creatives to existing business-as-usual video creative in direct response campaigns led to 16% improvement in CPA, 13% higher ROAS, 29% higher CVR, and 11% higher reach across all placements1 .

Download Meta’s Reels ads guide to learn more.

Creative Essential #1: Creating or Optimizing for 9:16 Video

Reels’ immersive video creates a unique viewing experience that feels at home on the platform. When creating or optimizing video content for Reels, it’s important to keep this in mind and ensure that your videos are designed with the 9:16 aspect ratio in mind. Research has shown that Reels ads that featured 9:16 videos showed a +7-point higher average positive response score compared to non-9:16 ads. Additionally, ad sets that included a 9:16 video asset with sound-on had 4.8% lower cost per action, 5.1% higher click-through rate, and 2.9% higher conversion rate compared to other types of video2 .

Creative Essential #2: Building for Audio On

Reels is a sound—on surface, where audio is crucial in bringing videos to life. As such, it’s important to include audio in your Reels ads, whether that’s royalty-free music from the Sound Collection Library or original audio. Research shows that Reels ads with both music and voice-over have a 15-point higher average positive response score compared to those without sound. Additionally, 80% of Reels are viewed with sound on, making it even more important to include audio in your Reels ads.

When looking at Reels from a cultural perspective audio can also hold an important auditory cue for users. Just like with visual content—think meme templates for example—audio can serve as an immediate indication for a viewer about what type of video it will be and the tone it is striking. Savvy creators will not only use audio but can also tap into audio trends to make their content more relevant and fun.

Creative Essential #3: Ensuring You’re Building Within Safe Zones

When creating Reels ads, it’s important to ensure that your content is optimized for the platform and doesn’t contain any elements that could be obstructed by the user interface or other features of the app. This means keeping text and logos within the safe zones, which are the areas of the screen that are least likely to be covered up by the UI.

Research shows that Reels ads with safe zone violations have a 39% lower CTR3 compared to those that are built to adhere to safe zones. By ensuring that your content is optimized for the platform, you can help increase the effectiveness of your Reels ads and drive better performance. Additionally, having video elements or logos getting cropped out of view could lead to a user wonder if your brand really knows what they’re doing…nobody wants that.

The Language of Reels

With the essentials of Reels taken care of, it’s time to rev up your creative engines. Incorporating the language of Reels – relatable, entertaining, and digestible – into your creative that also includes the essentials (9:16 video with sound on that adheres to safe zones) can lead to even better performance. So, consider how to add at least one additional creative element to make your content worthy of watching. Even just by including a human presence, text or sticker overlays, voice over, lo-fi content, or a ‘hook’ in the first few seconds has been shown to improve a Reel.

Stio Reels ad example:


Learn about Reels creative best practices in Meta’s Reels ads guide.

1. Source: Results are based on 10 lift studies that were run from April 2023 to May 2023 by global advertisers from various verticals including Ecommerce, CPG, Retail, and Tech. Results are in comparison to campaigns with only BAU creatives.
2. Source: Results modeled based on a Gradient Boosted Decision Tree (GBDT) model looking at 140k video DR Ad Sets with any delivery on Reels, across regions and verticals delivering from 7/1/23 – 7/14/23 which had non-zero conversions (outliers removed). Other video is defined as any video asset that does not include all creative essentials – 9:16 and audio. For example, a 9:16 video without audio would be considered other video.
3. Source: Analysis of placement-level results for ads associated with 58 global Brand Lift studies that were self-identified at the time of study creation as testing the addition of Reels as a placement to a current campaign strategy. Studies run from June 2021 through March of 2022. An ad is determined to have violated the Reels safety zone if any portion of overlaid text, brand identity, or product label is obscured by any portion of Reels user interface or persistent camera icon.

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