Vertical Video Is a Growing Force in Mobile Ads

Vertical video ads

Vertical is the natural orientation for smartphones

Vertical is the natural orientation for smartphones. Users hold their phones vertically 98 percent of the time, according to one study. Despite all this, horizontal ad videos are still common.

Why? Games are often horizontal: last year, Chartboost found that about 43 percent of games in our network are vertical. But more top games are now vertical, as simple casual games grab a larger share of downloads.

Even better, vertical ads are now outperforming horizontal on Chartboost. Here’s a look at the trends and numbers behind vertical in 2018.

Vertical continues to grow

Users are beginning to expect vertical video, even for “serious” content. BBC News, for instance, recently found that half its videos were viewed on mobile, with vertical performing best. YouTube, the benchmark for online video, launched a new vertical format to serve the demand, getting rid of the forced horizontal box portrait ads previously played in.

At Chartboost, portrait ads are now fully supported. Since horizontal videos, viewed vertically, leave about 75 percent of the screen blank, our first vertical formats filled these empty spaces with a banner or button. Today, we’re fully vertical, allowing portrait videos to play in full-screen.

As users have become accustomed to vertical ads, their performance has boomed in all regions. Half of all ads in the Chartboost network in Asia and Europe are played in portrait mode. In the US, only 21% are vertical — but they still perform better than horizontal ads. Advertisers targeting North America have the opportunity to stand out by switching to vertical.

There are two parts to the vertical story: installs and eCPM. Vertical ads now have higher install per mille rates versus horizontal around the world — up to 45 percent more, depending whether you’re running rewarded ads or interstitials.

Independent tests have also found vertical to perform well. Aitarget, an ad agency, found 27 percent lower CPI with vertical. That finding matches well with Chartboost’s data, which shows lower eCPM for vertical ads in almost all regions.

What vertical allows

The biggest problem with horizontal ads, played in landscape, may be the text. Most users play ads with the sound off, so advertisers use on-screen text to communicate. But with horizontal video shown on a vertically held phone, text becomes too small to read.

Switching to vertical solves the problem. With a vertical video, developers need only focus on the subject. Text can be enlarged, and used to direct users’ attention.

The most effective portrait-mode ads are often short. Audi cut its TV ads from 30 to 8 seconds for vertical, for instance. The company’s testing showed that users don’t stay for anything longer.

Vertical is also a good choice for emerging formats like playable ads and augmented reality. Candy Crush maker King is already experimenting with AR ads on Snapchat. “Smaller brands should definitely start experimenting because this is coming. In two years everyone’s going to have AR ads,” predicts Courtney Harding, founder of AR and VR agency, Friends With Holograms.

Horizontal has a long history in video, and it can be difficult to break with tradition. But smartphones have created their own reality — one where users prefer to both watch and play in a vertical orientation. For immersive, high-performing ads, vertical is now the way to go in mobile.

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