How Gen Z Made Me Stop Worrying And Learn To Love Vertical Video

Not so long ago, one of the most cringe-inducing things you could do was to share a vertically shot video. You know, these much-maligned monstrosities displayed on our standard, horizontally oriented screens with unsightly, visual-frame-consuming black bars around a teeny-tiny video that was as hard to see as it was annoying. 

But now, it seems every social platform and publisher is hopping on the vertical bandwagon. How did our visual preference so quickly get turned, literally, sideways? 

The true reason is mobile’s rise to the top of the digital platform hierarchy, largely in the hands of the “digital native” Gen Z population, which has been far more influenced by the mobile screen than the TV screen. Indeed, 73% of teens have access to a smartphone and they spend almost half of their total media consumption on mobile. As holding a smartphone vertically is more natural, it’s not surprising that vertical viewing became so popular, especially among millennials. 



Quick to embrace this trend was Snapchat, which is coincidentally 72% teen. In a recent survey from Piper Jaffray, 28% of teens 14 to 19 named Snapchat as the most important service, followed by 27% who named Instagram. There is no wonder that Snapchat became the epicenter of verticality, and Instagram is now touting its portrait capabilities, as well. 

Like it or not, if you’re a marketer looking to engage teens and younger millennials, vertical video is now mandatory, but here are a few affirmational mantras that will help get you through the five stages of mourning the landscape format: 

1. Sometimes vertical is actually better: Imagine you’re doing a fashion shoot with a single model. It’s important to show the whole outfit as well as close-ups of particular items. Even while filming a runway show with 10 models, the vertical frame perfectly captures each model, one-by-one, head to toe.

2. Vertical video can be more cost-friendly: You know your video is going to be viewed on a phone, so why spend a fortune on production? Go ahead and film with a phone, letting “native” be truly native. 

3. You should be customizing, regardless: Some of the “panic” about vertical video has been less aesthetic and more practical — brands and agencies worry about how they can repurpose their TV spots to fit the different aspect ratio. They shouldn’t have been doing that to begin with! Vertical is a great opportunity to break the repurposed-content habit.

 4. There are no “rules” yet: Vertical is still very new territory for both marketers and content creators. This lack of standard allows for freedom of creativity and experimentation — and, therefore, an environment forgiving of far-out endeavors in your trials.

Of course, what matters to most marketers is effectiveness. The big statistic that’s been making the rounds in the web marketing circuit is 9x engagement, per Snapchat. Truth be told, that’s a bit misleading because it pertains only to Snapchat, where horizontal is the odd-format-out. It is, however, an indicator of a highly promising approach ... a strong point to cite when submitting that budget for your new vertical video strategy.

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