Over time, mobile phones grew from being just a secondary screen to becoming the primary screen of engagement.
By Mayur Milan
A few years ago, a leading food delivery brand came up with a campaign that classified people into two categories based on their food and general habits. If the brand revisits the campaign today, it will have at least one definite trait to add to its list: people who watch video content on their mobile phone horizontally and those who watch content in vertical mode.
When smartphones emerged as an extension of our conventional existence, largely referred to as second screen engagement, they were employing the systems and mechanisms we were familiar with. Our cinema screens, TV sets and laptops were all widescreen devices. Our brains were pre-wired to accept a 16:9 format video content; mobile phones replicated that. After all, each medium requires time and acceptance to start building its own rules.
Breaking the norm
Over time, mobile phones grew from being just a secondary screen to becoming the primary screen of engagement. Deep-rooted logic of convenience kicked in. People wondered, “Why do we have to rotate our screens every time we want to watch a video on our phones?”
Because horizontal videos were standard, vertical videos were at one time considered digital stupidity. Snapchat transformed that with 9:16 videos. Over time, Instagram (with IGTV), Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube started adopting vertical videos.
The rise of vertical videos comes from the simple dynamics of adopting what is natural. Smartphones are vertical devices. It feels natural to clutch the phone straight. Tilting them ninety degrees every time one wants to see a video is unintuitive. Additionally, vertical viewing is also preferred because it leaves one hand free for multitasking purposes. The risk of dropping your phone is also considerably low.
How brands gain
All this has led to brands adopting vertical videos to engage the audience for longer, using either produced content or vertical video ads. With the field of engagement now reduced, brands are using the captive environment to focus on more invested messaging, which results in better engagement and ad performances. Availability of more real estate allows for text, graphics and interactive overlays to be built in. This drives up the engagement, something every brand wants. This, therefore, naturally flows into ads as well.
Vertical ads allow brands to imply that they understand the consumers, care for them and that they don’t want to inconvenience them. It also shows that brands are moving with the times and, therefore, are relevant. Their performance validates this. Vertical ads have consistently been better than horizontal ads as well as vertical ads that are played in horizontal layouts. Hyundai used YouTube vertical video ads to introduce the world to an all-new SUV model. The result was a 33% growth in brand awareness and a nearly 12% increase in consideration.
India is expected to become the second largest video viewing audience globally by 2020. This means Indian advertisers will spend more on mobile ads. Digitally led brands are already rolling out short, smart and more engaging ads in the vertical format. But brands must adapt to the new rules of engagement. Advertisers cannot take a 16:9 content and merely adapt it to vertical ads. The screen dynamics must be kept in mind and the content should be produced accordingly. Likewise, the nature of the platform will dictate the nature of the vertical video ad. Vertical video ads on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat will be different from YouTube vertical ads.
Humans took millions of years to become fully vertical. Mobile videos and ads will not wait for that long; neither can brands seriously looking to engage their audience.
(The author is director, Ideosphere Consulting)