Why ad tech needs to wake up before Facebook and Snapchat own vertical video

by Tom Herman, CEO of DashBid.

Premium publishers are finally tailoring their videos to match the way people actually consume media on their phones – vertically. However, vertical ad formats are still lagging behind.

The Washington Post is not only creating video news stories and documentaries optimized for vertical viewing, it has also launched its own vertical video player. But those vertical videos are still preceded by standard “letter box” ads, unattractively shrunken to fit their mobile video player.

The race to vertical doesn’t end there. Last month, Hearst announced that it would provide a vertical video ad format for its portfolio of websites. Meanwhile, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Mashable are all committing resources to vertical video formats

“We’re working to get to 100 percent of our videos vertical,” says Jon Steinberg, chief executive of The Daily Mail’s North American operations.

Vertical is the format that consumers are adopting, and publishers are adapting to keep them engaged. For publishers that means shooting quality vertical content and for advertisers it means designing vertical-friendly ads, but neither of those efforts will pay off if tech providers don’t deliver a workable ad format.

Vertical Video Performs Better

According to KPCB analyst Mary Meeker mobile accounts for 55 percent of traffic on the web and 30 percent of video viewing time in 2015 was on vertical screens. That’s a six-fold increase since 2010.

Research has shown that when the phone is held vertically, ads that are full-screen and vertical are the most effective. Rich interactive ad placements with sight, sound and motion displayed vertically to fill mobile screens, increase engagement. Moreover, completion rates increase as much as nine hundred percent.

The vertical video ad format can be inserted gracefully into most mobile experiences. By scrolling up and down, vertical ads can fill the screen, giving not only an arresting and engaging way to reach a consumer, but also a greater chance of exceeding industry viewability standards that require an ad to fill at least 50 percent of a screen. Swiping left or right can also trigger a screen-filling ad.

Increased effectiveness of the vertical video format will spur advertiser demand. Full-screen multimedia interstitial ads can capture twice the ad rates of more traditional video ads in mobile.

Social Platforms Are Ahead

Social platforms are seizing the initiative to attract and serve vertical video ads. Premium publishers need a solution to help them capture demand as well.

Snapchat last summer introduced its 3V (as in “Vertical Video Views”) ad product as a way to let advertisers access its 100 million-plus active monthly users. Snapchat delivers more than 7 billion video views daily, and most of those are vertical.

“Our baseline was, [we want] full screen. And in order to get full screen, you’ve got to do vertical video,” Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel told Adweek.

Facebook, which doubled its daily video views to 8 billion last year, recently released Canvas, an immersive video experience for “businesses to tell their stories and showcase their products.” Canvas is built to seamlessly integrate into the platform with blazingly quick load times and pixel-perfect display on mobile.

Technology and Publishers Must Catch Up

Mashable, the Financial Times, Vox Media, Mic and Buzzfeed are all pouring resources into producing mobile video in hopes of capturing more ad revenue. To support publishers, technology providers need to provide vertical ad solutions that work outside of massive platform apps.

The advertising ecosystem — from media buyers through DSPs, exchanges, ad servers, SSPs and publishers’ pages — needs to handle vertical video ads as easily as any other format commonly in use. This will require a ubiquitous solution for vertical video ad serving that works for every premium publisher.

Vertical video has been disparaged as a fad, and even a “crime” by videographers and other professionals, but it’s neither. It’s just the way people like to hold their phones, and the way they enjoy reading, watching and listening.

We need to serve ads into vertical units that will appear beautifully on the web, both in browsers and when included in publishers’ custom apps. That’s the way to capture the dollars that are surely going to flow more as more users gravitate to the format.

Fail, and we may as well cede the market to Facebook and Snapchat and just go home.


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