Latest ad tool proves vertical video is no joke – and Snapchat may rule the world

Vertical videos on Snapchat are driving interest in the ad format. / Snapchat

Creative management platform Flite has launched what it calls a scalable ad-building tool for vertical video, or videos shot and/or viewed on mobile devices.

It’s the latest news that seems to give added legitimacy to vertical videos, which, per Greg Jarboe, president of content marketing agency SEO-PR, were once considered rookie mistakes because YouTube would center the videos and add black bars to the left and right.

“But that was five years ago when only 6 percent of views were coming from smartphones,” Jarboe said. “Today, more than half of YouTube videos and over three-quarters of Facebook videos are watched on smartphones. So shooting horizontal videos that will be watched vertically just means the image will be made smaller to fit. This makes details harder to see. So savvy video marketers are rejecting the old rules…and shooting vertically for audiences that will watch them vertically and get to see more details.”

Further, Snapchat and Instagram videos are watched primarily in the vertical position on smartphones, Jarboe noted.

“People are annoyed when you force them to turn their smartphone sideways to watch a video that was shot horizontally,” he added. “So creating vertical videos makes sense because most people watch YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter videos on smartphones…the tipping point came in October 2014 when YouTube announced that 50 percent of its views were coming from mobile devices.”

Indeed, a recent study found consumers in APAC specifically find it annoying to have to turn their phones around to watch horizontal videos, spurring video ad tech company Unruly to launch a vertical video format in APAC, following the US, UK and Germany.

And Hamish Nicklin, managing director of AOL UK, even called vertical video “one of the most exciting areas of opportunity we see for 2016.”

Velocity

Flite said it built its product, Velocity, to “remove the complexities and excessive costs of creating vertical video ads and [allow] brand marketers to build the ads themselves.”

Users drag and drop a horizontal video and use editing tools to scale, trim, pan and jump cut and to add filters, themes or templates, Flite said. Branding, CTA and interactive elements can also be layered on top and the resulting vertical video can be downloaded and bundled with interactive ad units created in Flite’s CMP platform, the brand added.

Velocity also includes face detection technology, which Flite said helps keep focus centered around one key object or character to make editing easier.

A Flite rep declined to name the beta partners using Velocity.

“With Snapchat leading the charge, vertical video is quickly becoming a ‘must-buy’ in the brand marketer’s tool kit,” said Flite CEO Giles Goodwin in a statement. “With Instagram entering the vertical video space and publishers such as the Washington Post and Flipboard already offering it, it made perfect sense for us to create an ad builder that’s as easy as three clicks.”

Favored by young consumers – and Snapchat

According to Luke Watson, platforms expert at live-streaming network Roker Media, vertical video is a sign of the times.

“For generations, we’ve become used to horizontal video, which is wider than it is tall: TV, movies, computer monitors. When the smartphone came along, people began spending more time with a vertical screen -- taller than it is wide,” he said. “This created a divide between the olds who are used to seeing things the traditional, horizontal way and the youngs who are digital natives, defaulting to their phones’ vertical presentation.”

In other words, vertical video is a big deal because it marks a shift forcing older generations to adapt to new habits, often grudgingly, Watson said.

“You can fight it on a personal level, but, professionally, if you want to reach those young eyes, you have to do so on their terms and on their devices,” he added.

In addition, Watson noted virtually all professional equipment shoots and edits in horizontal and it isn’t as easy as turning gear 90 degrees to make that content vertical.

“The problem is that this video is so drastically different from vertical that it usually can’t be adapted,” Watson said. “This is the other thing that makes vertical video a big deal -- expense. If you’re shooting a campaign and you want it to run on a variety of platforms, you used to be able to shoot and edit once and then optimize your output file to match the destination, be it TV or the web. This was cheap and easy. Then Snapchat became the hot, new platform for advertising, and they put their foot down, developing new standards for content that were vertical only. It’s their way or the highway.”

Because Snapchat's native presentation is vertical, its users consume content that way and Snapchat, rightly, wants to ensure all content, even advertising, is presented in the best possible way, Watson added.

“This shifts a major burden onto marketers and advertisers who can no longer repurpose horizontal content,” he said. “Everything needs to be shot and edited vertically in addition to anything already being created horizontally, which, essentially, doubles the work.”

Flite’s Velocity tool, however, appears to ease that burden, Watson said.

However, Brian Shin, CEO of video performance analytics firm Visible Measures, noted Snapchat invented this particular ad format and has tools and guidelines for creating and publishing vertical video ads, which means Flite is over a year behind Snapchat on this.

“[Flite is] trying to enable Snapchat-like ads elsewhere – [which is] somewhat interesting, but you don't need Flite to make vertical video ads,” Shin said. “You just change the aspect ratio of your videos and you can put on overlays, etc. in your video editing software.”

Nevertheless, Watson expects to see a many more tools that facilitate the creation of vertical videos.

“Not having used Velocity, I can’t speak to how effective or revolutionary it is, but, based on its description, it seems to adapt existing, horizontal video to a vertical format in an easy and mostly autonomous way,” Watson said. “If that is the case, it would make life much easier for those of us creating content across a variety of media and social media platforms and probably encourage more to embrace vertical applications they might have otherwise ignored. I am interested to see if this or any tool can create a vertical experience from a horizontal source that feels native or if the experience is diminished [versus] vertical-first content.”

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