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VERTICALVIEWING THE WORLD RIGHT-SIDE UP
R O B E R T J O H N D A V I S ,
E X E C U T I V E D I R E C T O R O F S T R AT E G Y
F O R C O N T E N T & S O C I A L , O G I LV Y &
M AT H E R
A D A M K O R N B L U M ,
H E A D O F C O N T E N T D I S T R I B U T I O N ,
S O C I A L @ O G I LV Y
D A V I D C Y N G I S E R ,
S E N I O R S O C I A L S T R AT E G I S T,
S O C I A L . L A B
Kristen Rodriguez, A S S O C I AT E
OBILE HAS FAST BECOME the consumer’s first
device, so it comes as no surprise that mobile
video is growing quickly, too. The smartphone is
leading this charge, and ZenithOptimedia forecasts that
“mobile devices will account for 58% of online video
watching worldwide in 2017”.
Mobile apps including Snapchat, Periscope, Meerkat,
Line and WeChat employ vertical video as their native
format and have been driving acceptance of the format
in the entertainment and marketing space. But what
is Vertical Video? A WARC trend snapshot defines it as
“tall, narrow clips best displayed in portrait, rather than
landscape, form.” The trend is growing, evidenced by
a tall, narrow theater built at SXSW dubbed Vertical
Cinema and Vervid, a platform hoping to be the YouTube
of vertical video. Still, like any nascent format, there are
pros and cons to consider…
WILL ACCOUNT FOR
are KEPT IN
percent of the
( M O B I L E
M A R K E T E R )
A recent eMarketer
study in Japan
29% OF TIME
only 5% in 2010.”
( K P C B 2 0 1 5 I N T E R N E T
T R E N D S )
“Millenials are TWICE
AS LIKELY to be
focused on video they
watch on their mobile
devices as they are
on video consumed
on a TV.”
( O O YA L A G L O B A L V I D E O
I N D E X Q 4 2 0 1 5 )
There is “LIMITED
few other digital video
sites display from
that angle” making it
difficult to repurpose
vertical content for a
( A D W E E K )
Vertical Video Syndrome:
when a vertical video is
viewed on a traditional
video player, BLACK BARS
will appear on either side of
long, skinny clips.
The “HUMAN VISUAL
SYSTEM works from
side to side, rather
than top to bottom,
making it hard to
watch vertical clips.”
( W A R C )
From a BUDGET
additional cost is required
to go all-in on vertical
video due to continuing
need to make “traditional”
Robert John Davis
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY FOR
CONTENT & SOCIAL, OGILVY & MATHER
VERTICAL VIDEO ASPECT RATIO (the proportional measurement
of the width vs. height of a video image) remained stagnant at 4:3
for decades. With the rise of HDTV producers, networks, video web
sites and apps all adopted the new standard of 16:9 “widescreen.”
In both cases, the longer axis was horizontal (“landscape mode”
in computer terms), meaning the image was wider than it was
tall. That basic tenant of video production and consumption is
being challenged by mobile devices, which while still supporting
widescreen horizontal standards, are more often used in the vertical
(or “portrait mode”).
STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE HAD
THE LUXURY OF SHOOTING horizontally
or vertically for years due to the variable
use cases of their work – e.g. magazine
covers require good vertical images.
Video creatives, on the other hand, have
been limited not by the medium but
by the screens their work is displayed
upon. While vertical screens have been
available since the beginning of HD, they
have been limited to art installations and
other special situations. It wasn’t until the
rise of mobile that vertical screens gained
THERE WAS NO GREAT CONSPIRACY among
mobile device manufacturers to turn the world
of video 90 degrees; phones and tablets work
just as well when held horizontally as they do
vertically. The move towards vertical video is
being driven by user demand, something that
makes the trend all the more interesting to
content producers and marketers. While mobile
consumers can turn their phones horizontally,
data trends suggest that they don’t want to. It’s
early in the game, but results show rewards of
greater viewing times and higher click-throughs
for video content native to the vertical position.
WILL A PREFERENCE TOWARDS
VERTICAL grow as a staple of video
viewing well into the future? The jury is
out. Facebook is currently encouraging
a 1:1 square aspect ratio that uses
the same screen space when viewed
horizontally or vertically, while most
sites are holding fast to the tradition of
horizontal video… for now.
IS IT TIME FOR YOU TO START FLEXING SOME
VERTICAL VIDEO MUSCLE? If mobile app users
are your target (especially for Snapchat, YouTube
and other early adopters), then you should at least
execute some A/B testing to compare vertical vs.
horizontal results. If the trend towards vertical
continues at its current pace, expect it to soon
become a mandatory tool for reaching the mobile-
SQUARE ASPECT RATIO
HEAD OF CONTENT DISTRIBUTION,
VERTICAL VIDEO SERVES A PURPOSE —
THAT PURPOSE SHOULD BE DEFINED BY
DEMOGRAPHICS, VIDEO FORMAT, AND
MORE. 98% of people keep their phones in
vertical mode (Mobile Marketer). Granted,
one has to ask—what are the other 2%
turning their phones horizontally for? Is it for
video? 2% sounds small but in the world of
mobile users, it’s not that small if sales were
attributed to that 2% based on usage.
AUDIENCE: Older millennials and beyond
are more accustomed to turning their phone
horizontally (widescreen) to see YouTube
videos, etc. to watch videos from end-to-end
on one’s mobile screen. For teens and younger
millennials, Snapchat has changed the natural
behavior of watching vertical videos. The
underlying communication of those videos are
different in nature, too.
OF PEOPLE KEEP THEIR
PHONES INVERTICAL MODE
( M O B I L E M A R K E T E R )
PURPOSE: High quality video and horizontal
(widescreen) video is still common vs. real-
time streaming / messaging (e.g., Snapchat)
where vertical video is the preferred viewing
experience. Due to this, vertical video might
weild greater stopping power to drive to high
quality branded video series. Brands should
also consider using vertical video in its native
format — which is speaking to the consumer
like it’s a message vs. a long-form video.
However, long-form video should not be ruled
out and more data needs to be observed.
TESTING: Brands should Dark Post both
vertical video and horizontal video on
Facebook and Twitter using the same
targeting variables, budget, etc. to see what
works best based on the marketing objective.
As we know, different industries call for
different types of video formats.
SENIOR SOCIAL STRATEGIST,
EXPERIENCE IS KING. Vertical video usage is increasing within the social platform
landscape. With Snapchat growing in both audience and engagement, boasting 8 billion
views a day, brands have started to embrace this format in order to always stay connected
with their audience. Social platforms, even Snapchat, are not designed to be vertical only,
it’s just the way people prefer to use it. Social platforms that were not originally designed
to be mobile first have now embraced the format. Facebook, which is embracing the
immersive format in 2016 (360° videos, VR) just released Canvas, a new format that allows
brands to take advantage of mobile usage with vertical videos. When it comes to paid
social, advertisers can still choose which placement they want to display their video in
order to maintain the best experience on both mobile and desktop.
SNAPCHAT IS GROWING
IN BOTH AUDIENCE AND
VIEWS A DAY
“[Sergio Claudio, VP/Digital Innovation and Strategy at RockOrange argued that] marketers may benefit
from approaching vertical video in a similar fashion to native advertising, in terms of DELIVERING
MATERIAL WHICH IS TRULY ‘RELEVANT TO THE MEDIUM AND THE PLATFORM that people are
engaging with on mobile”
S T E P H E N W H I T E S I D E , W A R C T R E N D S N A P S H O T : V E R T I C A L V I D E O
“We believe that this is the form that will eventually get THE MOST TRACTION ON MOBILE
DEVICES because of the way that consumption of content works on mobile and the way users
are using and interacting with content,”
M I H A E L M I K E K , C E O A N D C O - F O U N D E R O F C E LT R A
“From a purely functional perspective, MOBILE PHONES ARE DESIGNED TO OPERATE VERTICALLY.
It’s a far easier and secure way to hold the device, and also necessary for operation with a single hand.”
C A M E R O N F I T C H E T T, M O B I L E M A J O R I T Y
People “just don’t rotate their phones.” [Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, on why “advertisers
that have been first to test-drive marketing on the app see a reported NINE TIMES MORE
ENGAGEMENT when their ads are vertically oriented.”]
G A R E T T S L O A N E , A D W E E K
run rampant on vertical video
comment sections. While everyone
seems to have an opinion, here
is the case from both sides:
ARGUMENTS TO FILM
VERTICALLY OR ADAPT
GENERAL CONTENT MARKETING BEST PRACTICES suggest creating with the platform
intended in mind. Beyond desktop v. mobile, this applies per channel as well.
While there are few quantitive stats to support this at this time, a Snapchat representative
recommended shooting vertically from anecdotal evidence, “simply because you’ll be able
to envision the story in that frame and build a more cohesive piece of creative, as opposed to
retrofitting,” suggesting that the quality suffers when adapted from the video shot horizontally.
As user behavior changes, it is important to fish where the fish are. That includes being
adaptable to new media.
SHOOTING ONCE AND EDITING TWICE is thought to be less expensive than shooting
twice (once specifically in vertical format). The cost savings could be allotted to media
spend or other budgets, which could theoretically allow greater reach.
If more money will be invested in the editing stage of production, perhaps the content
can be repurposed several ways, beyond vertical as well.
For example, two-thirds of the vertical content Mashable produces is created using
editing software such as Adobe After Effects. Depending on the media buy or the
brand’s target and strategy, the demand for vertical may be limited by platform strategy.
AUDI HAS LAUNCHED SEVERAL CAMPAIGNS USING VERTICAL
MEDIUMS, NAMELY SNAPCHAT. In 2015, an Audi campaign around the
brand’s involvement in the Le Mans race, a 24 hour race of endurance in
France, “delivered a 36 percent video completion rate, which is 80 percent
higher than automotive benchmark at Celtra, the ad tech partner on the
effort.“ (Mobile Majority). The campaign repurposed TV assets by cropping
and shortening them to 8-seconds.
“DELIVERED A 36 PERCENTVIDEO
COMPLETION RATE,WHICH IS
80 percent higher
THAN AUTOMOTIVE BENCHMARK”
PRAISED AS A LEADER in the digital sphere, vertical
video is no exception. Taco Bell leveraged Snapchat to
film a 4 minute short film called “Rush Order” starring
Vine and Snapchat influencers during the 2014 MTV
Movie Awards to announce the new Doritos Locos Taco.
The video achieved 74M impressions and Taco Bell
doubled its followers on the platform in one day.
AND DOUBLED ITS FOLLOWERS ON
THE PLATFORM IN ONE DAY.
FOR THE 2015 MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS, Viacom partnered
with Snapchat for a Live Story that drew on users with exclusive
access; namely, red carpet, backstage, and other peeks behind the
curtain that the TV viewer would ordinarily not be able to see. In
addition to sponsoring the story itself, they also produced four 10s
ads shown during the Live Story. Over 12M viewers tuned into the
content, exceeding actual broadcast viewership of 9.8M.
TUNED INTO THE CONTENT, EXCEEDING
ACTUAL BROADCASTVIEWERSHIP OF 9.8M.
Cameron Fitchett, “Why Mobile Video
Ads are Going Vertical,” Mobile Majority,
November 12, 2015.
Chantal Tode, “Audi sees 80pc higher
completion rate with vertical movie video
ads,” Mobile Marketer,
August 24, 2015. http://www.
Christina Wiese, “Vertical Cinema Makes
North American Debut at SXSW,” SXSW,
March 6, 2016. http://
Garett Sloane, “How Snapchat’s CEO
Plans to Conquer the Advertising World,”
Adweek, June 14, 2015,
Garett Sloane, “Snapchat Persuades
Brands to Go Vertical With Their Video,”
Adweek, April 26, 2015,
Glove and Boots, “Vertical Video
Syndrome - A PSA,” Youtube, June 5, 2012.
Ian Forrester, “7 steps to success with
online video,” Admap, WARC, February
“Japan’s Smartphone Video Viewers Turn
Devices to Portrait Mode,” eMarketer,
March 16, 2015.
Jefferson Graham, “Vertical video pays off
for Snapchat,” USA Today, September 24,
Jim O’Neill, 2015 Ooyala Q2 Global Video
Jim O’Neill, 2015 Ooyala Q4 Global Video
Mary Meeker, “Internet Trends 2015 -
Code Conference,” KPCB, May 27, 2015.
Richard Bilton, “The Washington Post is
embracing vertical video,” Digiday, March
Robert John Davis, “Vertical Video is Not
a Crime,” Unadorned: The Digital Home of
Robert John Davis, June 12, 2015.
Sarah Wood, “Social Video Trends for
2016,” Unruly December 18, 2015.
Stephen Whiteside, “Trend Snapshot:
Vertical Video, ” WARC Trends: Snapshot,
“Time Spent with Mobile Video in Japan
Varies by Age”, eMarketer, May 14, 2015.
Associate, Ogilvy & Mather New York
Robert John Davis
Executive Director of Strategy for Content & Social, Ogilvy & Mather
Mar. 24, 2021
Mar. 13, 2019
Aug. 30, 2017
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Apr. 26, 2016
Viewing the world right-side up: POV on Vertical Video