“Brands know they need to spend a lot on mobile video, but now they’re wising up to how that video is actually hitting consumers – and whether that video is additive or maybe doing harm to their brand over time,” Sigel said.
The format, he said, needs to mirror the context.
“That’s true whether a video is running on YouTube, in Snapchat, in an ecommerce app, in some sort of full episode player or in a game,” Sigel said. “It’s really important to understand what the experience is.”
And sometimes that experience will actually be horizontal. Orientation is “a matter of preference and context,” said Garrett McGrath, SVP of product strategy at mobile SSP Smaato.
“A vertical video might fit better into a social experience where the user is already recording or sharing something that is more easily or naturally done in portrait or if the user is on the move,” McGrath said. “But it’s safe to say that for other use cases, landscape is always going to be preferable. For example, I’d much rather watch a movie trailer or music video in landscape, so switching to horizontal even if I was previously using the device vertically is actually welcome.”
But demographics play a major role in that preference. Younger audiences are simply far less likely to engage with horizontal video in vertically oriented apps.
Snapchat, which filed papers for a monster $25 billion IPO on Tuesday, is the poster child for that point of view. The app claims its full-screen vertical video snaps garner five times as many swipe-ups – Snapchat-speak for engagement – than the average click-through rate on other platforms.
“We know from Snapchat that vertical video delivers incremental engagement,” Jesus Lara, EVP of digital media at LaMusica’s owner, Spanish Broadcasting System, told AdExchanger at the time. “[And] we also know from our own experience and focus groups that kids simply don’t switch their phones to landscape view. They just don’t do it.”
Brands are taking note of the behavior, Sigel said, and vertical video supply is increasingly becoming less of an issue. Snapchat was the catalyst, but the vast majority of Essence’s clients now create vertical video assets in addition to horizontal ones as a matter of course, which they can use to extend their Snapchat buys on a growing number of other platforms.
But the standards lag. Although the current OpenRTB standards for mobile allow publishers to note the size of their video player by height and width, there’s no way to designate app orientation. But in Brandt’s view, it’s only a matter of time before that will have to change or at least be discussed.
“The amount of video advertising coming through as horizontal is actually at an all-time high because programmatic solutions don’t give you a variable way to identity the orientation of an app,” he said. “Enough dollars are moving into mobile video that this will have to be addressed sooner rather than later.”
Despite ad dollars pouring into mobile video – eMarketer predicts double digit growth in US mobile video ad spend through 2019 – and the industry’s growing embrace of vertical video, 360-degree video experiences, now also supported by the MediaBrix SDK, are still in the early experimental stages.
Production is more challenging and expensive for 360-degree video, it’s still considered a novelty and brands aren’t ready to make a significant investment just yet. But Sigel is bullish all the same.
“My gut tells me that the acceptance of 360-degree video has a lot to do with the eventual acceptance of VR, and I’m a big believer in smartphone-enabled VR,” Sigel said. “But it’s still an unknown, whereas vertical video is obvious: a format that fits right in with the consumer experience.”