Social media platforms have taken notice. Instagram, for example, recently launched IGTV, a new app for watching long-form, vertical video, while WeChat introduced WeChat Moments, with similar functionalities. At the same time, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and head of product Chris Cox have both stated that vertically oriented stories will become the social network’s main content format over the next five years.
In fact, more than a billion accounts globally are watching vertical videos and slide shows across Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Messenger.
“When Stories become the main content format on Facebook and Instagram, replacing feed, vertical video becomes essential for both organic content and ads,” said James Fitzgerald, executive director of programming at Social Media Knowledge, in an interview with CMO.com. “One of the most rapidly developing social media trends of 2018 [has been] the ascension of vertical video stories, and while this shift to vertical is currently optional, it will probably become mandatory within the next 12 to 24 months.”
Vertically oriented video taps into the same way people are accustomed to participating in video calls on their smartphones, held in an upright position.
It’s also “a reflection of that classical approach to advertising that you should occupy the most space as effectively as possible,” said Alex Watts, head of social at digital marketing company Ogilvy Australia. “Vertical video is perfect for the mobile format because it makes an impact quickly, and it’s a relatively easy format to produce content in.”
Part of that impact has to do with the ease with which vertical video lends itself to closer cropped, more refined recording, allowing for a more intimate viewing experience than in the traditional widescreen format.
Most projects Watts now works on have a strong vertical video element to them, and he sees vertical video overtaking horizontal for the primary output of work coming out of creative production houses. “Advertising on any social platform means vertical video these days, thanks to mobile devices, and this is especially true of platforms such as Instagram,” he said.
Vertical videos are also generally cheaper, more spontaneous, and easier to make than in horizontal mode. Given that 94% of mobile users use their device vertically, it’s the most obvious and cost-effective way to achieve maximum customer penetration in the digital marketplace.
“The first thing you need to understand is where your audience is and what type of content they will want to look at,” said Melissa De Coster, creative services manager at Sydney creative video production company Shootsta. “For clothes and make-up brands that are inherently drawn to social media platforms such as Instagram, it makes perfect sense.”
Of course, the real question is, how are vertical videos performing? By way of example, Snapchat stated recently that its vertical video ads achieved nine times the end-user completion rate of horizontal, largely because the format is optimal for an intuitive experience on a mobile handset.
A recent survey by digital advertising company MediaBrix also found that while users only watch about 14% of horizontal video ads, vertical video ads have a 90% completion rate. It attributes this to users being so used to reading email, looking at photos, and doing everything vertically that they never bother to turn their phones sideways anymore.
Across the Asia-Pacific region, there’s no shortage of brands that are integrating vertical ad campaigns into their marketing strategies. For example, Japan’s largest wedding information service, Zexy, has used Instagram Stories to create a series of vertical ads designed to help couples prepare for their big day.
Another success story is Tokopedia, one of Indonesia’s biggest online marketplaces. Tokopedia already knew that Indonesian consumers spent a lot of time on Instagram and Facebook, so it trialled a range of ads using holiday-themed videos that also gave users the option to swipe on to download the Tokopedia app. It then ran the campaigns simultaneously on both platforms, achieving considerable consumer breakthrough.
Meanwhile, global companies Hungry Jack’s and Universal were early adopters in the Australian market using Snapchat’s 3V vertical video platform.
“For advertisers and marketers, or anyone trying to sell stuff, vertical video is the future of digital advertising,” Watts said. “Horizontal cut downs of ads designed for other formats such as TV just don’t have the same impact.”