#ReelTalk: Reels Ad Creative is the Best Investment Digital Marketers Can Make Right Now

Lola Behrens, Content Marketing Manager


Kevin Goodwin, VP of Media & Strategy

DJ Sutton, Director of Media Services

Nora Bafus, VP of Creative

November 1st, 2023

Ad Creative is the Key to Strong Targeting

Gone are the days of 3rd-party event-based ad targeting. The loss of third-party cookies and shifting consumer behaviors have required Meta to deploy a content-first algorithm, which means that ad creative is more important than ever when it comes to campaign optimization. Here’s a quick recap of how the creative growth narrative has changed over the last several years:

Meta’s new algorithm leverages AI to understand what content resonates with a given consumer and uses these learnings to deliver hyper-relevant ads. The benefit to advertisers on the platform is that they are empowered to cater to their target audience and reach new, high-potential consumers - and ad creative is the key.

This is where Reels come into the picture. In our latest webinar, Supercharge Your Ads with Reels, New Engen leaders, joined by Meta, laid out the mechanisms that make Reels the most valuable ad format on the platform right now. Plus, New Engen VP of Creative, Nora Bafus, shared her tips for cracking the creative code on Reels.

Why Reels Are So Valuable to Advertisers Right Now

Meta has reported impressive findings from advertisers leveraging Native Reels as a cornerstone of their ad creative, to the tune of +29% CVR, + 13% ROAS, and +3% in Reach. “At New Engen, we want to be a little bit critical of the numbers we get from Meta and cross-reference it with our owned data,” says DJ Sutton, Director of Media Services at New Engen. To validate Meta’s claims, we surveyed the New Engen client portfolio and found that Reels are driving a +40% Watch-Through Rate than Feed and Story Video Ads, and they’re doing it at -75% Cost per Reach. Simply put, consumers are engaging with Reels more than any other ad placement, and there is a surplus of ad inventory available to advertisers if they choose to use it.

The way Kevin Goodwin, New Engen VP of Media & Strategy, sees it, “[Reels] are a little bit of a layup right now which is a rarity in the digital space.” Marketers have had to navigate ever-growing rates of competition, but Reels can offer a breath of fresh air in an otherwise saturated digital landscape. To put this into context, we compared the investment return of two New Engen clients, based on the share of ad spend each was allocating to Native Reels Ads. Client 1 was investing 25% of ad spend into Reels, while Client 2 was investing a majority 98% - in terms of return, Client 2 was indisputably seeing better results, to the tune of a 25% lift in ROAS.

How to Create Winning Reels Ads

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it’s that there’s no creative hurdle too great to prevent you from testing into Reels. Nora Bafus, VP of Creative at New Engen, puts it simply, “Don’t wait and overthink it - get after it, the results will show it’s worth it.” The rules that used to govern ad creative no longer apply, as consumer preferences shift away from the perfection of high-polish and high end-production, and toward authenticity and or low-fi creator content.

When building out Reels creative or auditing existing ads, check that they align with the following:

What’s Hot

  1. Creative that engages and provokes immediately.
  2. Simple, straightforward messaging. For example, explainer videos are most effective when they are short, focused and get to a core message quickly.
  3. Strong visual cues including text or captions + audio.

What’s Not

  1. Vertical video. “Reels is not the same as vertical video. I know they look the same, and to someone who doesn’t nerd out as much as we do about these things you might group them into the same category, but Reels are really specific,” explains Nora.
  2. Heavy-handed Direct Response (DR).
  3. Pushy messaging to drive sales. You need to entertain not just advertise.

"Finally, remember that the medium for Reels is a part of your message, so what you do and how you build these ads should be very intentional for your placement," adds DJ Sutton. This sentiment should guide your creative strategy on Reels.

Scaling UGC Volume

User Generated Content (UGC) and Creator Content are an advertiser’s “bread and butter,” and the winning content type on Reels, but procuring UGC at scale is a common pain point for many brands. However, Nora Bafus believes that there are many ways to solve this UGC problem. For starters, larger-production assets can be remixed, or “scuffed up,” with elements like text overlay stickers, which are easily recognizable visual cues that Meta estimates are used in 65% of Reels.

Next, don’t worry about finding creators with huge followings or established audiences. Be willing to get scrappy and leverage Meta’s Partner Directory or even look internally for employees who are interested in getting involved. Brands have found success this way because many employees are already fans and frequent users of the product or service.

Finally, avoid quality missteps by embracing the power of the creative brief. “Don’t be afraid to be heavy-handed in laying out creative direction, requirements, and deliverables. Outline these expectations in contracts to mitigate miscommunication downstream. Many creators will appreciate the extra guidance and use it as a sandbox to play in,” Nora explains.

We don’t want to belabor the point, but it bears repeating: the impressions on Reels are so much more valuable, and the reach so much cheaper than anywhere else on the platform, that it’s worth it to test into the format. Period.

Creative Hot Takes

Whether you’re already on Team Reels or just starting to explore the format (or hesitant to test into it at all), Nora’s creative hot takes are ones to live by:

  1. Don’t overthink it - get after it, the results will show it’s worth it. The cost of waiting is too great.
  2. Nano is the new micro. Don’t fret over landing creators with large following count to start. “Beyonce is a pie-in-the-sky goal,” says Nora, but it’s okay to start with creators who have fewer than 5,000 followers or even leverage employees who are willing to create UGC to start your engine.
  3. Remember the basics. Vertical video does not a Reel make - Reels are highly specific, should always have sound on, text overlay, and framed within the safe zones.
  4. Think outside the box. There’s no shortage of ways to get creative - rizz up your Reels with anything from quizzes to Zodiac signs or red flags. Pull the audience in to participate and engage.
  5. Play to slay. Keep it engaging, keep it surprising, and keep it fun - that’s the whole point of Reels.

So, What’s Next?

If it isn’t already clear, we at New Engen really believe in Reels as a transformational tool for brands advertising on Meta right now. This is why we launched Confetti, an always-on, cost-effective UGC-sourcing product from New Engen. Confetti enables us to secure micro-influencer engagements for our clients, with a focus on in-kind partnerships as these have proven to be a strong unlock for brands looking to get started on the format. To learn more about Confetti or our agency guidance on Reels and Reels ad creative more broadly, please reach out to us at info@newengen.com.

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