Considering vertical video ads? Here’s how to do them right.

by John Miyoshi on Oct 26, 2016

Vertical video is a significant trend in mobile advertising, and for good reason: with vertical apps or mobile web, it makes for a much better user experience — there’s a lot to be said for not having to rotate your phone to view an ad. Well-executed vertical video can do wonders for brand awareness because it feels native and immersive, and some brands have seen dramatically higher completion rates with vertical video.  

So there’s enormous opportunity for brands in vertical ads. The question then is how to do them well. Here are a few best practices to consider:

Make sure the content is clear.

No matter if you’re doing animation or live footage, make sure your content is absolutely clear. Your subject should be in focus and the story should be easy to digest so the user can fully understand the footage. Utilize your content to leverage what you already have. For example, if you have a video ad promoting your app, make sure that the UI of the app is fully visible, which sometimes means sacrifices any animations that you might have along the side in a horizontal video. Your logo should be fully visible, and don’t be afraid to line-break your copy. Readability of your copy is key.

Plan ahead to accommodate the videography.

Vertical video requires appropriate videography, so you have to plan ahead and shoot with vertical in mind no matter if your ads are shot with a camera or rely on original animation. Shoot your live footage in 4K, and keep in mind that some film professionals may need to rotate their camera and shoot vertically. Horizontally shot videos will need trimming to fit inside a vertical video. Vertical is great for the human figure, so if you’re trimming horizontal video, get comfortable with trimming to show the whole figure. Your videographer might need to place the subject of the shot in the center of the frame for easy readjustment.

If you’re using animation, make sure it’s in a 16:16 ratio (video landscape is 16:9 aspect ratio, portrait is 9:16 aspect ratio — see the image below), and always render out as a square ratio to avoid re-render time, no matter if you’re using 2D or 3D.

Move things around if you need to.

If you already have landscape video shot and you’re ready to resize it, don’t feel limited by where things are in landscape — feel free to move objects around if you need to to accommodate the portrait orientation. For example, if in the horizontal shot there are 2D character animations on either side, you can move them to the top and bottom. Balance your composition for your users to enjoy the immersive experience on any advertising platform — that will enhance the storytelling and intimacy that will draw the user in. And if you still don’t feel that the portrait feels right, ask your peers for feedback!  


Whatever you do, don’t feel intimidated by vertical video. Just know that it’s going to take practice and experimentation to get it right; vertical video represents just another learning curve graphic designers need to embrace. Adjust your way of thinking and get comfortable with cutting off the sides of a shot and moving objects around.

Vertical video ads are a great way to engage consumers with a great user experience, and although they’re relatively new, it’s pretty clear that when they’re executed well, users complete them at a higher rate than horizontal video. You can tell a great story with portrait-sized videos as long you follow these steps: make sure your content is clear, plan ahead for the videography to be vertical, optimize your screen alignment, and experiment to find what works!

John Miyoshi is director, Creative Services at AppLovin.