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No film director dreams of making well-crafted work for TikTok

Think vertically says Commonwealth McCann’s Andrej Arsenijevic

First, a true story. I witnessed a historic act on a video shoot a few months ago. Firstly, the director presented a shooting board in a vertical format, and then a crew member physically turned all our video monitors to a vertical orientation. Now, I’m not sure if all other agencies are already doing this or if we’re among the first ones, but it is the right thing to do when shooting films for social and digital.

These little changes will sound silly and not even remotely historic to anyone outside the advertising industry. But in our world, it signals change and a commitment to a craft for the medium. I must credit our fantastic clients and production partners for supporting this. 

There are still a lot of arguments and resistance to a vertical video in our industry. Absurd. We’re in the business of creativity and should be welcoming a new way of doing things, especially when it makes sense for the audience we’re talking to. But somehow, even though the average person spends almost five hours a day on a vertical mobile phone, most of the ad industry is arguing about creating content for a vertical medium. This denial hurts the craft and effectiveness of our work.

Here are some suggestions on how to embrace the change if you haven’t already.


So many different mediums with different user behaviours create problems for marketers and agencies. Where do you start, and where do you find your audience when they’re everywhere? And when you find them, how do you ensure they see your message? With a reduction in marketing budgets and extreme efficiency goals, reaching the audience puts much pressure on everyone. In discussions with our clients, we tested content with different types of craft on various channels. 

Of course, content that was tailor-made for the channel had, on average, three times better engagement than a simple content adaptation. But not only that, we have seen a crafty stop motion video made in-house overperform the most cinematic, high production values, and beautifully polished ads. It doesn’t mean we should stop making beautifully shot cinematic ads. People will still go to the cinema and watch ads on a big screen. But it means we should commit to the medium and craft our content for it. The audience will appreciate it.


Almost every film director working in advertising dreams of making films for the cinema. Rightly so. They went to a film school for this and spent many years mastering cinema storytelling and craft for horizontal videos. They rarely dream about making a crafty 30-second film for TikTok. But can you even craft a TikTok video? Absolutely, but vertical video and social media content require a very different type of craft. Start with a simple act of turning your camera vertical and be picky about music and editing. An idea is a must and doesn’t need a discussion. When a client asked us to launch their TikTok channel, we hired a TikTok creator and learned from each other in the first few months. And then, we started experimenting and posting tailor-made content for the channel. It quickly paid off, and our client’s TikTok account became one of the most engaging in the region. Find a talent who understands the medium and knows how to craft for it.


I don’t want to get involved in predicting the future, but I guarantee you that more new mediums are coming soon. I’m unsure if it is VR, AR, metaverse, the crypto market, or AI, but one will stick. When that happens, brands will need content crafted for the medium. Agencies that adapt to this quickly will be set for the win. It will require a quick change in operations and upgrading talent in the agency. Clients must understand and support this. Humans are prone to change, but as an industry that wants to attract creative people, we must be more agile and ready to change quickly. 

By Andrej Arsenijevic, ECD at Commonwealth McCann