You’re Going to See More Vertical Ads on Your Phone

Snapchat had trouble selling its unique portrait ads until Instagram launched its copycat feature.

Snapchat has spent the past couple of years trying to persuade advertisers to abandon their training and instincts and shoot video promotions in a way that mobile phone users will watch full-screen—vertically, that is. Its pitch: Portrait ads on Snapchat get twice as much visual attention as landscape ones, because viewers don’t have to rotate their screens.

It hasn’t been an easy sell, though. Artistic principles aside, simultaneously shooting a vertical video and a conventional one may require an additional camera plus a reconfigured set, to say nothing of a concept that works in Snapchat’s 10-second slot, as opposed to the standard 30-second TV spot. While a lot of big brands have tried it—including Amazon, Pepsi, and Marriott—vertical hasn’t gone mainstream. That may be about to change.

A game/ad from Gatorade.

Source: Snap

In August, Instagram introduced its own version of Snapchat’s signature Stories feature, which lets users post videos that disappear after 24 hours. “As soon as Instagram gets involved, it’s a bigger audience, a bit more global, and vertical video becomes relevant and pressing,” says Dom Poynter, head of communications strategy at Barton F. Graf creative agency, which works with brands such as Supercell, maker of the Clash of Clans mobile game, and Bulleit bourbon. Poynter says he could suddenly justify slotting vertical into client plans and budgets, driven by the promise of reaching both Snapchat’s 158 million daily users and Instagram’s 400 million. Snapchat parent Snap is in a silent period in the runup to an initial public offering in March.

Kenny Mitchell, head of consumer engagement at PepsiCo’s Gatorade, thinks vertical video is about to get much more prominent. “We contemplate it from the outset” during the planning for an ad campaign, he says.

Instagram began placing ads in its Snapchat copycat feature, also called Stories, in January. Its parent, Facebook, is testing a stories feature on its main app as well, which would potentially allow advertisers to reach its 1.8 billion users with the same single ad.

Los Angeles-based Snap touts its ability to command the attention of the coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic. The company says it reaches 41 percent of that group in the U.S. on any given day and that its audience is less likely to skip over ads because they’re embedded in content generated by friends. But in a survey by Fluent, a data marketing company, 69 percent of Snapchat users said they always or often skip the ads. Worse, 62 percent said they expect an alternative to Snapchat to come out and that they’d switch to it.

Snap may be moving on to new things, too. Its $130 Spectacles glasses sport a wide-angle camera to capture video that can be viewed vertically and horizontally.

The bottom line: Companies are more receptive to Snapchat’s appeal to make vertical ads now that Instagram is running them, too.

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