News UK sees vertical video ads taking off

News UK is bullish on the opportunity for vertical video, and it’s starting to see the fruits of its labor.

The publisher of British newspapers The Sun and The Times of London launched V-Studio last June, a suite of tools for creating vertical video content, in order to relieve the creative barrier of reshooting content for mobile. Typically, shooting vertical video is a low priority for U.K. creative agencies. But clients that commit to a certain amount of budget directly with News UK won’t have to pay additional creative costs for it.

Vertical video demand is being driven by audiences, platforms and advertisers alike, according to the publisher: 91 percent of the audience for tabloid brand The Sun comes from mobile, while that figure is 79 percent for subscription title the Times.

Over the last four months, News UK has run 16 vertical video ad campaigns across its owned and operated platforms and Snapchat Discover edition. Twelve of those were for luxury clients such as Michael Kors and Mr Porter, which are adopting the format more quickly than other sectors.

Luxury clients have typically been reluctant to jump into outstream video because of the lack of control around what their content is adjacent to. But they have been receptive to vertical video, a nonintrusive format that takes up the full mobile screen and users can swipe off of. Equally, luxury advertisers spend a lot of money on TV ad creative, and vertical video now offers a useful additional digital distribution route for these at scale.

“The market suggests that outstream video cannot replace the lack of supply of pre-roll in the industry, but we see the opposite,” said Oliver Lewis, director of digital strategy and partnerships at News UK. “If the vertical mobile canvas is used correctly, it can be an alternative and complementary to instream. Outstream driven by mobile vertical is a big opportunity.”

V-Studio launched with seven different interactive vertical formats for clients. Recently, the Times used the vertical format that incorporates live data feeds in a campaign for Michael Kors. The ad used viewers’ location data to show them their nearest Michael Kors store, after 33 percent of Times mobile users opted to share their locations for the campaign. Different creative is served based on audience preferences. The campaign click-through rate was 75 percent above the average for News UK’s nonvertical video placement, according to Lewis, although he wouldn’t share absolute numbers.

News UK’s data-led vertical video creative

News UK has said vertical video formats increase interactions sixfold compared to horizontal ads. The publisher is testing how the format performs with more branding metrics like purchase intent, rather than interactions with the ads.

Three-quarters of the vertical video campaigns run by News UK repurpose existing assets from clients, while V-Studio shoots 25 percent as part of branded content campaigns. The format is now included in all News UK video briefs. The ambition is to have vertical video included in every branded content campaign News UK runs by the end of the year. Vertical video appears in about 60 percent of branded content campaigns to date.

CPMs for News UK’s vertical videos fetch twice what the average pre-roll video ad would on the Times’ mobile site and 25 percent more than pre-roll video ads on The Sun, according to Lewis. News UK makes 50 million monthly impressions available for vertical video across its network. In December, vertical video inventory on the Times sold out, and Lewis expects to sell out in January, too. The publisher is looking to increase supply on the Times and through its other brands like Dream Team and Style Play.

“We don’t expect to see a deflation on [the CPMs for] the Times. It’s a premium environment, and it’s performing well,” said Lewis. “We won’t create inventory to backfill. It’s not an opportunity to lower yield; there’s a flight to quality, and that should be reflected in the rate.”

By the second half of the year, News UK expects the number of vertical video campaigns it runs to overtake traditional mobile outstream formats. New formats are in the pipeline, too: The publisher is testing shoppable vertical video formats to release in the coming months. Virtual reality and 360-degree vertical creative are also in the cards this year.

Direct deals rather than programmatic have been the focus so far, although advertisers can buy News UK’s vertical format through Unruly’s SSP. Lewis said it wouldn’t rule out further partnerships over the course the year.

“There has been some negative press around the format,” said Lewis. “We believe it’s an opportunity to capture a large amount of video budget; it needs support and growth from all publishers.”

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