Vertical Video Is NEVER A Good Idea

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The Noise Floor A/V was always envisioned as a place to discuss audio AND video, but rarely do we speak of video here. Most of the community are audio engineers, and I myself am far more versed in audio production than video production. But bad advice is bad advice, regardless of format, and I want to call Shenanigans.

A marketing blog is advocating for vertical videos. I can’t facepalm hard enough…The link to their article is at the bottom of this one. Their article is the usual click-baity listicle that you see all over the internet, and is borrowing heavily from the Buzzfeed approach of oversimplifying an issue into 5 or less bullet points. I’m not bashing listicles, they work for a reason. But let’s offer a rebuttal to each of their points.

“1. People naturally hold their phones vertically.”

Sure, but most people I know will gladly turn it horizontally to watch a video if it’s shot horizontally. Even if you hold it vertically, you still get to watch the horizontal video. Bogus argument.

“2. People access social media on mobile the most.”

Sure, but that has nothing to do with whether or not your video should be vertical or horizontal. Refer to my rebuttal of point #1.

“3. Social networks are vertical video-friendly.”

This is where it gets tricky. This depends greatly on whether the person is watching on a mobile device or on a desktop. On a mobile device, the vertical video doesn’t have sidebars. But you’re limited in what parts of the scene you can see, and if someone is shaky with their shot it’s VERY hard to keep them in the frame. That causes people to tune out.

On desktop, this completely ignores the blurred sidebars that they actually DO ad. Instead of black bars, they letterbox it on the sides with a blurred color spectrum that matches what’s happening in the video.

Sorry, but that’s effectively the same thing as black bars, only far more annoying. I’ll turn my phone sideways to see a bigger picture with more detail, and avoid the annoying blur box on desktop playback.

“4. Vertical video ads convert better.”

I can see this point, if the ad was produced for social media on a mobile platform specifically. Advertising with custom graphics that are vertical can be viewed like a poster, and that can be cool and attention grabbing. But that seems more appealing for a custom .gif than a video, and this completely ignores desktop users while limiting your ad to only being used on social media platforms. If you format your ad for vertical video, good luck putting the same ad on youtube or even on your local broadcast station. A graphic, like a poster that is animated, is one thing. A video ad is another.

“5. Your customers are lazy.”

As insulting as this is, I get where they’re coming from. It’s a well established rule of the internet that people would rather click away than wait 2 seconds for something to load. If you post a video that autoplays on facebook, it’s more likely to be viewed than a youtube link that doesn’t autoplay.

But that has nothing to do with vertical vs horizontal, and it completely ignores desktop users. Remember my rebuttal to point #1. People may be lazy when browsing, but that has nothing to do with whether or not a video should be vertical or horizontal.

My bottom line is that Vertical Video looks tacky and amateurish. It limits the audience, assumes they’re not going to be bothered to turn their phone sideways, and assumes they’re lazy idiots. If you want your marketing materials to reach a broader audience, ignore the bad advice about vertical video.

As promised, here’s their article.