How Vertical
Formats Are Changing Creative

Social media and mobile-centric habits are impacting the way we create, consume and share.

From landscape to vertical, smartphones and social media have changed the way the world views content. Mobile screens got bigger, Snapchat and Instagram Stories were launched, and vertical content was born. Now, more videos are watched on mobile than ever before and stats show that those viewed vertically have higher completion rates than traditional landscape formats.

What Makes It So Engaging?

Vertical content takes up more space on the screen, it’s easier to look at and you don’t have to flip your phone to get the full picture. Content is no longer competing with other pieces in the feed which means less room for distractions. Immersive by default, the experience between the user and the content being viewed is more intimate. Never before have brands been able to get so close to their audiences on social.

Rethinking Creative

We’ve championed vertical formats from the beginning, understanding the way that mobile-centric audiences engage, create and share. Our work with Instagram and Paris Saint Germain FC in 2016 celebrated the launch of the new Stories function with dynamic content for players to share to their accounts. More recently, our collaboration with Wavey Garms was tailored specifically to an Instagram audience, providing flexible content that worked across multiple formats and channels.

Stories are favoured over Grid posts due to the immediate and ephemeral nature of the content. Noticing this shift, our in-store activation for Vans Checkerboard Day invited customers to create bespoke social content for stories and feed, giving them the freedom to post to their preferred format.

We’re no stranger to vertical, in fact, we recommend capturing events and activations in this way from the get-go.

Vertical Formats In Consumer Tech, Apps and Events

As brands catch up with this shift, mobile-centric preferences are trickling into consumer tech and other digital arenas. CES 2020 saw a smattering of vertically inclined releases. Samsungs rotating TV ‘SERO’ – although slightly gimmicky – has been designed with TikTok users in mind. Another was Quibi’s ‘Turnstyle’, giving viewers the freedom to watch videos in landscape or portrait at the turn of the screen whilst keeping what matters most in the frame at all times. These technological advances are forcing filmmakers to change the way they think about content, planning shoots to ensure that the narrative makes sense in both orientations.

Creator apps and tools are reacting to the change too, releasing new features that cater to growing demand. One of these is Vimeo Create, making it more accessible for people to ‘Create High Impact Social videos’. The feature allowing users to repurpose footage for a variety of social formats at the click of a button. Similarly, Adobes Auto Reframe tool offers a slightly more sophisticated update. Using AI, the tool intelligently tracks and detects key features in a frame. Whilst the feature does streamline the process it isn’t 100% reliable and still has a way to go before it replaces the need for a human touch.

The way crowds capture experiences is also influencing the design of live events. Last year saw the world’s first Instagram-friendly gig performed by Mabel at the opening of Samsung’s Kings Cross store. The three-storey stage was built specifically to fit the frame of a phone, perfect for sharing straight to Stories.

samsung activation

The Future Of Vertical

There’s no doubt we will see the vertical shift continue. More social platforms are embracing the change in preference. TikTok – the App fuelled solely by vertical videos – has seen incredible growth since it’s launch, and more recently Byte – the reincarnation of Vine – has also adopted a vertical-only interface.

Netflix and other streaming giants have started to show trailers in portrait for mobile viewers – perhaps they’ll implement a Turnstyle feature too? We may see more live events framed for portrait capture and more experiences that invite users to frame their content for their screens. Will Samsungs rotating TV be a success? Maybe. Will we see directors make Hollywood blockbusters purely for vertical? Probably not (yet).

Whilst it won’t ever replace landscape, we have no doubt vertical is here to stay.

Hungry for more? Take a look at our other articles, technical musings and experiments over on the Lens.