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  • Quynh Nguyen

Vertical Videos, Horizontal Videos, and When to Utilize Each

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

Video Production Strategies 2019


Mobile is key. Video is key. But most video is not optimized for the way people use their phones. Vertical orientation in mobile-phone usage is over 98%. That means the overwhelming majority of the time, your audience is looking at a completely different screen shape (9:16 ratio) than their TV or desktop computer (16:9 ratio).


The type of stories and photographic compositions that work best on mobile screens is thus going to be quite different than traditional video best practices. For example, the most basic concept for a video ad -- one that features two people standing side-by-side and talking to each other -- does not lend itself well to a vertical screen shape.


Quick example: Here is the Speed Stick ad our team produced for Super Bowl XLVII. If we had wanted to produce an ad for vertical video (and not television), this same story would not have worked:



In other words, context is everything: it’s important to consider the format from the point you first start brainstorming creative concepts.


How much better do vertical and square videos perform with a mobile audience?

  • 2x completed views (Jane Goodall Institute)

  • 100% more engagement (Buffer)

  • 3x the number of shares

When to Use Vertical Video:

  • When placing videos on scrolling platforms (ie. Instagram) vertical or square formats are best because users are less likely to switch between vertical and horizontal formats.

  • Though there is less inventory for vertical ads, new formats are almost always better priced to encourage adoption.

  • Even Youtube is becoming more friendly to new aspect ratios like square and vertical video.

When to Keep Things Traditional:

  • If your creative concept involves side-by-side conversations or rapid horizontal movement, vertical video will not be ideal due to the reduced field of view.

  • Youtube, streaming services, and mobile apps meant to be played horizontally all still do better with traditional (16:9) creatives, but Youtube is quickly becoming more friendly to square (1:1) or vertical (9:16) video.

Keep in Mind:

  • Do NOT expect that you will be able to crop and repurpose traditional videos; the choice between vertical, square, or horizontal video needs to be determined at the concept stage -- before video production -- to leverage each format's unique strengths.

  • Vertical video is not universally supported by apps and websites, and there is going to be less available inventory, particularly on the programmatic side.

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