Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Jeff Hackett, the senior vice president for U.S. brand sales at AdColony.
When was the last time you used your phone horizontally outside of watching a long-form video on an app like Netflix or Hulu? Likely not recently — and you’re not alone.
Mobile users hold their phone vertically over 90% of the time
Why? Because they like to have one hand free to multitask, and holding it horizontally usually requires two hands. So, mobile app developers design for vertical orientation across all categories, even games, which have traditionally been played in landscape mode. Look at the top free and grossing mobile games in the world — they’re mostly now in portrait.
With mobile users consuming content vertically, it’s no wonder that advertising is going vertical, too. The shift from viewing publisher content to viewing an ad should be seamless. After all, that’s why native advertising works so well. If a user has to rotate or tilt their device to view a video ad properly, the drop-off rate on that view is going to go up dramatically. It was inevitable that advertisers would start creating vertical videos to match that trend.
As with any new advertising format, someone has to go first
In this case, it was Snapchat. The social platform debuted its vertical video program, Snap Ads, in the summer of 2016 and claimed it has 5x greater consumer engagement (“swipe-ups”) when compared to click-through rates on most mobile ads. The company has run vertical videos since 2015, though, and has reported that vertical video ads also have up to 9x more completed views than their horizontal counterparts.
Snapchat paved the way, and Facebook and Instagram soon followed. Facebook launched vertical video ads in September 2016, and just last month Instagram began placing ads in its Snapchat copycat feature, also called "stories." As Bloomberg reported, “As soon as Instagram gets involved, it’s a bigger audience, a bit more global, and vertical video becomes relevant and pressing.”
Yes, social is popular for mobile users — but 57% of mobile app time is not spent on social
Games, sports and news are where we see an enormous amount of time being spent. More importantly, it’s the “how,” or the quality of that time, that’s important to advertisers. Social media is a "fat thumb" environment where users casually browse and are easily distracted. While checking sports highlights, playing a game or reading a new article, though, they’re more deeply engaged in the content.
Vertical video, which had previously been concentrated in social, is now spreading to many other publishers. The Washington Post, BBC News, Vox and Condé Nast are just a few top publishers that have embraced the vertical format. And it’s not just the premium environment that news publishers offer that’s exciting to advertisers. In many cases, their audiences are more valuable. Sure, Snapchat can be great if you need to reach 18- to 24-year-olds and decent if you need the 18-34 demographic. But if you’re selling luxury cars, that platform is likely not so great.
Ah, but how does the story end?
The good news is that even if the viewer is not “sold” during those eight or even 15 seconds of a vertical video ad, you still have an opportunity to capture their attention and draw them in to engage with the brand — and all those great metrics that come with it.
Vertical videos, just like regular mobile ones, can finish with interactive features that offer ways for consumers to swipe, tap, watch, purchase and otherwise engage more fully with rich brand experiences. Vertical video does not have to be about mere awareness. It can move users to action. App install campaigns have already proven this: Vertical video with dynamic end cards are driving significantly better engagement, higher conversions and result in more valuable users.
Video viewing on mobile is on the rise — and as it continues to grow, so will the demand for well-executed vertical videos that capture consumers’ attention and fill the full screen of the device, emulating the content they're used to seeing in their news feed and other portrait-oriented apps.
There’s never been a more exciting time to be an advertiser, with seemingly endless opportunities to reach consumers. But the real winners will be those who contribute to the consumer experience, not detract from it. Vertical video is a great step in that direction.