Why is vertical video key in 2019?


Which video format is better in 2019? Traditional horizontal video (16:9) or vertical video (9:16); the latter having found its feet in the last few years largely because of social media and Stories (Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories, Facebook Stories and so on).

It’s been an interesting argument to watch unfold. Video professionals are holding tight to the values of horizontal, old habits die hard after all, and marketing professionals are now shifting to vertical to reflect changing content consumption habits.

In a 2014 study it was revealed, unsurprisingly, that mobile phone users keep their phone vertical 94% of the time. There is nothing to suggest that this fact has changed whatsoever, which means that the “natural” state for people to consume content on a phone is vertical. Yes, we all have the option to turn our phones sideways but, as is human nature, this is a minor inconvenience and therefore just not typically done.

With current consumer favour trending towards vertical video, it is surprising to see marketers slow to make the change. The prominence of Stories on social media is significant, with it fully on track to overtake news feeds on major social channels. It has driven Facebook to ensure that Facebook and Instagram ads are “as good in Stories as they are in feeds. If we [Facebook] don’t do this well, then as more sharing shifts to Stories, that could hurt our business.” Likewise, it has led YouTube to fully commit to vertical video with their ads format.

Still not convinced? Buffer, a social media management platform, have done an extensive study into whether or not vertical video makes a difference. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Businesses and brands must keep up with mobile-centric video trends if they want to succeed on social media in 2019. A mobile-centric strategy relies heavily on vertical video (and creating content that feels native to each platform).

  • Highly-produced “polished” video content doesn’t always win, organic DIY videos outperformed polished videos on both Facebook and Instagram.

  • Vertical video used to be seen as a mistake, but since the rise of platforms like Instagram Stories, vertical video has taken over and become an innovative way for individuals and businesses to tell stories.

  • Over one billion people use the vertical video format on Facebook-owned properties like Instagram and WhatsApp alone, with YouTube even embracing vertical video on the web and mobile.

But why is vertical video so popular right now, especially given the time honoured tradition of horizontal / widescreen video? Many marketing experts believe intimacy plays a big part.

Time and time again we have spoken about how story-driven content will be more effective, simply because it becomes more personal to the consumer. Vertical video is no different. Filming on a phone is by its very nature, intimate. It also raises an interesting challenge for filmers who have a restricted view. This, typically, leads them to focussing more on the subject in the centre of the screen.

In short, the rise of vertical video has changed video production itself. It enables anyone to create exciting video content easily, with just a smartphone. There is no real need for expensive cameras or extensive editing knowhow and software. The power of video is in the palm of your hand, both as a consumer and a producer.

The trick to it is just understanding where and how people consume content. You can then proactively approach the question of what kind of content you should be producing. If your audience is largely on mobile, and right now they are, then you should be focussing on content that is largely consumable from mobiles. If your audience is reacting more to Stories on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and so on, and again a large demographic are taking to Stories right now, then these are the social media platforms to be driving your marketing through.

What do you think about vertical video? Is it already being employed as part of your digital marketing efforts or is it too hard to break a highly established convention for video? We’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, please comment below.