Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Vertical reality

Updated May 18, 2017 10:51am
Why it is time marketers and publishers start taking vertical videos seriously.

We can do many things with our mobile cameras. The recent deporting of a man and his family from a United Airlines flight was shot and broadcast to the internet through a cell phone. Due to the resulting outrage the airline was forced to compensate the passengers in addition to suffering a public humiliation.

Did you notice that it was a vertical video? More importantly, did you mind?

Video as we know it is in a state of flux. Two decades ago, everybody had a CRT TV screen/computer monitor. Back then, almost everything was shot in a 3:2 aspect ratio (except for films which were and are still shot in a ratio closer to 2:1). Meanwhile, with the advent of HDTVs, most users found themselves with a shorter and wider screen, with a ratio of 16:9 or 16:10. Mobile screens, even after the launch of the iPhone in 2007 retained a 2:1 ratio until 2008. Then, Android happened.

Although initially Android phone manufacturers stuck to the tried and true 3:2 aspect ratio, they soon switched to a more video and media-friendly 16:9 ratio. Even Apple made the switch with the iPhone 5. All was well with the world, right?

Not remotely. The world’s most popular tablet, the iPad, has retained a 3:2 aspect ratio. Most of the world’s DSLRs and cell phone cameras shoot stills at 3:2 while shooting video at 16:9. Instagram popularised the perfect square aspect. Meanwhile, LG and Samsung are at the forefront of making a cell phone screen even narrower and shorter, which aspect ratios in the neighbourhood of 2:1. On the other end, there is Virtual Reality and 360 degree videos, which, let’s just say, defy all categorisation.

While the media world is still confused about the preferred format to push videos to users, vertical videos have had a resurgence. Now that everyone can shoot photos and videos, there are no boundaries. Also, vertical videos can be ideally viewed on today’s tall, narrow cell phone screens – and guess where video is now consumed the most?

The data bears this out: Publishers and marketers are taking notice. Smartphone users hold their phones vertically about 94% of the time. (Source: MOVR Mobile Overview Report). According to Snapchat, on its service, vertical video ads are watched all the way through nine times more than horizontal video ads. There are more than seven billion video clips viewed daily on Snapchat, the majority which are vertically filmed. Moreover, according to Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends, vertical viewing now accounts for 29% of view time, compared to five percent five years ago. (Source: KPCB)


It is time that all digital content, including advertisements, are optimised for every screen they are likely to land on. Vertical video is now a dominant player and cannot be ignored.


Brands that have already addressed this trend are doing quite well: Vertical video takes up the entire mobile screen on your phone, providing more real estate to tell a richer visual story. Jason Stein, CEO of Laundry Service, has seen success with LG vertical video ads, which he reports as receiving CPM (cost per thousand) rates that are three times more efficient than standard square videos on Facebook. Snapchat is also successful with vertical video via their Snap Ads platform. It reports that Shock Top saw brand awareness improve by 15 points and purchase intent rise 22% around millennial consumers – all from a 10 second Snap Ad.

So, how can we take advantage of this trend? The answer is not simple: make your content aspect ratio agnostic. Just like films originally shot in Cinemascope, are edited to fit on 3:2 DVD players or 16:9 HDTVs, it is time that all digital content, including advertisements, are optimised for every screen they are likely to land on. Vertical video is now a dominant player and cannot be ignored.

Yes, there will be additional costs. But if the above facts and figures bear one thing out, it is that the ROI will be several times over. Think about it: if you are reading this blog on a PC screen, it is most likely appearing as a snippet of text that you have to scroll to read, with acres of wasted space on both sides. See this on a vertical cell phone and you can see most of the page in one go. The same principle applies to videos: we increasingly can’t be bothered to turn our phones to see videos. The sooner marketers take advantage of this, the better!