Smart phones started it. Snapchat and Instagram helped make it a more easily digestible video format. Now, it’s the question on every marketer’s lips. Are vertical videos the devil incarnate, or the way forward?

It all came to a head around August last year, when Snapchat revealed completion rates on vertical videos were nine times higher than their horizontal counterparts. While this is marginally problematic (has anyone tried horizontal video on Snapchat? It’s kinda rubbish,) it does raise a valid point. People do view most online video content on their mobile phones – so why wouldn’t we make this a better experience for them?

We know human beings are inherently lazy creatures, and tasks like turning a phone horizontally can sometimes exceed the amount of effort we’re willing to put in. Vertical video is certainly very appealing to mobile users in this regard.

However, it also comes with quite a few limitations. It doesn’t agree with the way we digest information (we read left to right, not top to bottom,) it doesn’t look great when executed poorly  and repurposing it can be difficult.

So what’s the answer? Do we do what the kids are doing, and go vertical? Or do we keep aiming for that cinematic feel, even though the viewers might miss out on it? Well, it’s really a case-by-case thing. Here’s a few tips to help make your decision for you:

Consider Your Audience

Vertical video has seen its rise in popularity because of mobile-geared audiences. If you know your audiences will be viewing your content primarily on mobile devices, vertical video is a great option. If your audience is slightly older, less adverse to flipping their phone or viewing it on desktop then maybe horizontal is the way to go.

Determine Your Objective

Like all things, knowing what it is you want to achieve from the outset is crucial. Are you making a short 10-15 second video designed to drive traffic off-site? Vertical is a good way to go – you’re not trying to win an Oscar here. Or, are you shooting a 10 minute after-movie for your festival? Get them engrossed  for the whole ten minutes by keeping it cinematic and shooting for landscape.

Think Before Shooting

Before even hitting record, think about all the places your video is going to be viewed. If it’s only going to make an appearance on social media, vertical is ok. If you want to use it more broadly, perhaps consider some other options.

Resizing certain content for particular platforms can be really tricky. For example, resizing wide angle footage into square, vertical and horizontal doesn’t work so well. Planning ahead can help avoid this.

Other things to consider here are making your videos work without sound and including titles – but this is a discussion for another day.

Be Versatile

Once you know where your content is going, choose a versatile way of shooting that speaks to multiple platforms. If you need to shoot in landscape, do it with the view of being able to square crop it. This is ideal for mobile audiences, especially on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’re just shooting for social platforms, give vertical a go – but shoot in a way that allows it to be cropped square without jeopardising the quality of the vid.

Always Check Your Specs

When shooting vertical content – always check the latest ad specs. Facebook will automatically letterbox a vertical video on desktop if it’s the wrong size, and that’s not fun for anyone. You can view the latest ad specs here.


BLSTR Group.