Adapt or Get Left Behind: Vertical Format Video

Haters gonna hate. In the not-so-recent past, I was fully on the bandwagon of vertical video haters.

Haters gonna hate.

In the not-so-recent past, I was fully on the bandwagon of vertical video haters. I would roll my eyes at vertical videos on YouTube, and constantly nagged my friends to just turn their phones 90 degrees to capture more scene and less sky.

My hate wasn’t without good reason, though. The dominant format of video, television and cinema is widescreen. Our eyes are laid out horizontally, so widescreen simply feels more natural. Because all professional cameras shoot widescreen, there hasn’t been any reason to shoot a vertical video in the past. However, that’s all changed in recent years.

Times are a’changin.

With the advent of mobile internet, people are browsing video content in a natively vertical environment for the first time. And as content creators, we’re behind the ball a bit. Instead of adapting to our new environment that our videos are being watched in, we insist that the user make the effort to rotate their phone and enjoy our hard work the way we want them to.

Predictably, this hasn’t happened. Sociology tells us that humans tend to take the path of least resistance, and asking them to change their behavior is a Sisyphean task. I’ve certainly been a hypocrite and watched a widescreen video in portrait mode on my phone because I was too comfortable to move. 94% of smartphone users browse in portrait mode, and 74% of millenials won’t switch to landscape mode (there goes us millennials again, ruining another sacred tradition).

Is it laziness? Of course not. It’s just human nature. Smartphones are designed to be used in portrait mode. We scroll through webpages in portrait mode. News feeds are vertical in nature. There’s a rhythm to using a mobile platform, and us videographers are the ones disrupting that rhythm. We have no one to blame but ourselves for the poor performing, squished videos we’re insisting on serving in widescreen.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

So, if we can’t command consumers to bend to our whims, what can we do? For the first time, there is a mass market vertical video format, and it’s time to switch from our traditional thinking in order to take advantage of this new opportunity.

We see examples of the format being successful across various social media platforms. Snapchat, has discovered that their vertical ads have up to 2x higher visual attention vs comparable platforms. LG’s vertical Facebook ads were performing at 3x CPM over square ads. Research shows that Instagram and Twitter are producing comparable results.

The numbers speak for themselves: vertical video is here to stay. That doesn’t mean vertical video is superior to its widescreen counterpart, only that it pays to tailor your ads to the platform they’ll be served on.

We don’t mean to brag, but our resident videographer, Justin, is one of the best in the Valley–just check out his work here.

Is your business in need of high quality video content? Let’s talk! Connect with us via email at and learn more about ANDERSON’s work on our website.