Do you remember when having internet on your phone was an unfathomable luxury? Flipping open your LG enV with a little too much enthusiasm sometimes meant accidentally opening the world wide web, which was the single most terrifying minute for your cellphone bill. These days your cell phone lives on the internet and has become an entire business ecosystem that didn’t exist ten years ago.
In 2016 that ecosystem has changed our everyday life, our jobs, and the ways we absorb content. The very shape of that content itself is continually changing and adapting as consumer preferences change. In today’s internet world, the shape that we see most is a vertical one. Everything from email, to word docs, to websites are now vertical, just like a mobile screen.
Time to move to mobile
The rise and supremacy of mobile didn’t happen overnight. The advertising industry has been cautiously watching it climb for years. The number of mobile users officially overtook desktop in March 2015 and the way we format our content is still adapting. As of 2016, mobile advertising spend will reach $42.01 billion in the U.S. and is expected to reach $50.84 billion in 2017. This high level of spending makes sense since in 2016, U.S. smartphone users will spend 108.71 minutes on their phones per day* and 95.4% of all millennials will be internet users in 2016**. Mobile is here to stay and the opportunity in the space is immense.
What does this all mean? It’s passed the time to add mobile to your media strategy and, more importantly, there’s still a need to optimize for the mobile viewer to find what’s comfortable, easy, and less disruptive for them.
Time to look in another direction
And by that I mean literally another direction. If you look at a horizontal image or video on a vertical phone, you’re not getting the whole picture (so to speak). The formatting sacrifice we’ve been making has been to the detriment of the consumer experience in that we’re not optimizing for the primary way they absorb content; mobile.
This idea may be hard for some to digest as vertically oriented videos have been positively vilified since the inception of the internet. All platforms and video units were designed precisely for horizontal video, so anything that differed looked less than optimal. Within the past year, however, consumers have grown accustomed to the look and feel of vertical videos and many advertisers have already realized the advantages it yields.
All those that have seen the “discover” feature of Snapchat have seen the early stages of the vertical video format. Rather than being relegated to a minute 30 percent of the screen like most horizontal video, vertical reaches all four corners to increase engagement, achieve 100 percent viewability, and relay instant clarity of message, but can be easily swiped away for that vital sense of consumer control.
Who’s leading the way?
This new video ad format is still in its early stages to be sure, but publishers and advertisers alike are already experimenting to find what works. Hearst is one such early adopter as they have added vertical video ad units onto all of their publications mobile sites. They’ve already seen an increase in both engagement with and demand for their new unit. On the advertising side, one of the most talked about ads of the Super Bowl this year was a nostalgic piece by Jeep that was specifically formatted for multiple platforms. Their team recognized how many viewers were straying away from TV and moving towards mobile, so on TV we saw the telltale black side columns, but on a phone screen that ad played full screen. The result was singular, moving, and communicated the strength of creating a mobile-first experience.
The reality is that vertical videos benefit all sides of the advertising operation. For publishers, the viewability numbers are higher for vertical units, so their advertisers know they will see a higher return and as a result are more willing to buy. Beyond increased viewability for advertisers, they also enjoy higher completion rates and a more engaged customer base. In a recent campaign Audi experienced a completion rate 80% higher than the typical horizontal average. All of these marketers don’t view vertical as just another trend. Instead, they see it as the future of the industry. Truth is, it’s just more natural to hold a phone vertical, it’s comfortable and less work for the consumer, which means more views and a better consumer experience.
We’re being pushed towards vertical with early adopters and influencers like Periscope, Snapchat, and Hearst leading the way, but it’s not too late in the game to be categorized as a first mover along with them.
* Source: eMarketer 2015, “Time Spent with Smartphones”
**Source: eMarketer 2015, “Internet Users Millennials”