It’s been more than 7 years since a PSA featuring a few Muppet-like creatures warning people of the folly of vertical video went viral. But that was then, and this is now. YouTube just announced new vertical video opportunities for advertisers, Snap is trying create the vertical future of television—and supporting it with ads—and Instagram and Facebook have already made huge moves embracing the format. Content producers, marketers and publishers still face challenges overcoming the natural inclination toward horizontal viewing (we do all have side-by-side eyes, after all).
But it’s funny how sometimes a very small thing can cause a really big shift. Consumers are spending more time than ever on their smartphones and they simply don’t like taking a few milliseconds to shift them sideways for a horizontal view. Whether it’s for taking pictures or shooting or watching video, research has shown 94% of us do these things while keeping the phone vertical. So, it makes sense that the social platforms—which are mostly viewed via mobile—are getting over the hurdles and offering advertisers the opportunity to do the same. Let’s look at a few best practices for marketers.
Don’t Repurpose Video Developed for Horizontal
Simply shoving creative that has been developed for horizontal viewing into the vertical format isn’t going to engage consumers—and more importantly it doesn’t capitalize on the format’s unique advantages. Because it inherently requires a closer cropped, more refined take than traditional 4:3 horizontal video, vertical offers a level of immediacy, intimacy and interactivity not typically found with traditional video. While this puts extra creative and content-development burdens on brands, the payoff is there—Snapchat reports that full-screen vertical video ads get a 9 times higher completion rate than horizontal mobile video.
Be Platform-Specific When It Comes to Length
While short and sweet has become a mantra these days, it’s actually a better strategy to consider the platform, audience, intent of the ad, brand messaging and other factors before determining the right length for vertical ads. The new vertical TV channel Snap announced earlier this month that it will feature 6-second, unskippable vertical video spots but other platforms offer different opportunities for brands. Adweek’s recommendations for the recently launched IGTV came in at 2 to 3 minutes, while the optimal time for Instagram’s normal feed is under 30 seconds. In other words, there’s no magic number for vertical video length. It’s all about the context—and of course great creative developed specifically for vertical.
Let Horizontal and Vertical Complement Each Other
YouTube’s embrace of vertical video ads, which was announced at the Dmexo conference in September, is designed to let brands “provide a more seamless mobile experience” for viewers. Hyundai is among the brands to have trialed the new creative format, which expands based on the dimensions of the video.
YouTube’s chief product officer Neal Mohan told The Drum that, when used in combination with the Google-owned platform’s classic horizontal video formats, the test campaign to promote the automaker’s most recent SUV model resulted in a 33% uplift in brand awareness and a 12% uptick in purchase consideration. Those are great stats that underscore the importance of not favoring one channel or ad shape over another, but developing cross-screen strategies that optimize reach and engagement.
In just a few short years, vertical video has grown from being the butt of jokes to the “it” format of the moment. Advertisers have yet another opportunity for using sight, sound and motion in innovative ways to connect with their audiences.