Do We Need a Cure for Vertical Video Syndrome?

Posted by Sydney M. Wolff on Oct 7, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Topics: Publishing Platforms, Video Trends

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The video craze has taken over social media. Most popular (and for some most overrated) is the vertical video obsession. Portrait-orientation videos reflect media-lovers’ fixation on their smart phones, so it’s not surprising the fad has taken off, leaving many with what people call “vertical video syndrome.” Unsurprisingly, there’s still a wave of vertical video haters. The outspoken group has presented some valid points about the format. But with its increasingly frequent appearances in publishers’ and major brands’ content, these naysayers may have to reconsider. Is there anything wrong with “vertical video syndrome”? In fact, can we even call this preference a “syndrome” at all? Even the most prominent criticisms on vertical video are losing traction; let’s debunk a few of these critiques.

Creative & Design Limitations

While this may have been a concern initially, advertisers are starting to see the potential of vertical video. They’re beginning to see vertical video syndrome as an opportunity to create a new format in advertising. Although it’s somewhat intimidating for those that are comfortable with the traditional TV format, companies are quickly getting on board with the idea. Because of platforms like Snapchat, Periscope, and Meerkat that require vertical videos, it silly for companies to restrict themselves to landscape formats only. Anyone who has seen the Discover feature on Snapchat knows just how impressive vertical videos can be. As publishers ramp up vertical video production, the necessity for this type of advertising is becoming more apparent. The more brands and agencies rethink their position on vertical video, the more creativity and new designs will flourish. Consumers who have caught “vertical video syndrome” are also expanding the limits of design with the content they create, something publishers & agencies can look to for inspiration.

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Unnatural Shape of Our Eyes

One vertical video critics’ concerns is that the new orientation is just wrong, and that we aren’t meant to view screens that way. However, Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist, said people today spend about 30% of screen time looking at vertically held devices. Smartphones and tablets are dominating the technological lives of consumers, and both are primarily vertical. Those who constantly use smart phones will contend that watching horizontal videos on vertical screens is far more irking than a vertical video. Another side of the argument is that our eyes are set horizontally, meaning the corresponding format must be the most natural. Thinking back to the vertical formats of most movie posters, banners, and signage easily refutes this point. Even YouTube has recognized that vertical videos are increasingly important. In July, the YouTube app was updated so users can watch vertical videos in full-screen mode. Home videos further propel the format. People are vertical, meaning videos of friends, a baby’s first steps, etc. are all better accommodated vertically. 

Amateur or Low-Brow Content

The original creators of  vertical video were just ordinary consumers, so it’s reasonable that critics might imagine amateur videos when they think of the new format. But as publishers and advertisers start to push out premium and compelling content, it’s clear that things have changed. Major publishers like Mashable have ‘succumbed’ to vertical video syndrome, showing haters how popular the format is amongst consumers. Large advertisers have also realized the necessity for vertical advertising. Companies like Audi are beginning to advertise through vertical video, and the resulting ads have been astoundingly effective. Although the format is still widely used by consumers, it is now also widely accepted and utilized by large companies. Those attempting to keep up with consumers are seeing how crucial it is to adopt this layout. Wide use of the vertical video does not exemplify a low-brow trend, it shows its popularity and wide-reception with the consumer world. 

“Vertical video syndrome” was coined to describe this controversial trend, but vertical video is here to stay. Critics of the new orientation have presented sound arguments, but as the format gains popularity they begin to crumble. Despite traditional critics’ contentment with TV accommodated landscape orientation, they’ll have to adjust to a new future of video. This “syndrome” may be that new future. It’s safe to say that as long as smart phones remain a primary source of information for consumers, vertical videos will play an increasingly important role.

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