Vertical filmmakers winning in brand and video creation on mobile

Vertical viewing is growing as an advertising format

Trying to cram an ad designed for television into a mobile screen doesn’t work. The vertical space needs its own creative, so splicing ads meant for a bigger screen doesn’t often translate.

Many creators in the industry were brought up on horizontal video, but mobile has demanded that these conventions be reworked for a vertical screen, as Michael Gentile, director of BBDO Studios, BBDO New York explains.

“It’s like an artist who has comfortably painted with an easel and canvas for years and is now painting wall murals: the perspective has changed. It’s the same thing with creating content for mobile formats: we’re working with a new perspective, exploring a new creative space.”

Director/producer/founder of OBB Pictures, Michael D. Ratner, also has had to shift his focus.

“These are creative handcuffs and you need to be even more judicious with how you choose to use the space and what you want to fill it with – that’s a cool problem to have,” he says.

Chris Breen, chief creative officer at Chemistry, says his biggest challenge with the format is getting the most essential parts of the story crammed into the first few seconds.

“It’s like a billboard and a video in one. You also have to think about the role audio plays. Most of the time your viewer is at work or sitting on a train so you have to appeal to them visually and not just assume they are sitting in front of the screen with the volume cranked,” says Breen.

While TV and film adhere to certain established camera and editorial conventions, mobile vertical video has demanded that these conventions be reworked.

“Mobile content must be optimized around user behavior, from users watching with headphones, to those with a trigger-thumb watching skippable in-feed content. Our job is to ensure our client’s message is contextually relevant to how people are consuming,” states Gentile.

Those raised on television and movies have had to adjust to the new vertical reality, but for millennials and Gen Z, they are mostly mobile natives and demand a better viewing experience, voting with their scrolls. Since the way they find most of their content is through social media, creatives would be wise to meet these generations there.

“Much of their time spent is on social platforms, and they are increasingly more likely to gravitate toward vertical formats that deliver a more up close and personal style of viewing — Snapchat and Instagram Stories for example. In order to seamlessly integrate into these platforms, brand ads must tailor content not only to be vertically-oriented but also short in length,” says Caroline Desmond, director, media strategy at Portland agency North.

Adds Joe Pernice, senior producer/content director at Deutsch: “It’s rare to see a millennial snap a photo in landscape mode. They see the world in a vertical frame and so it only makes sense for mobile-specific ads to follow a less traditional format.”

Considering the push towards vertical viewing is still in its relative infancy, makers have plenty of opportunities in front of them to grab viewers.

“With vertical being a relatively new video format, there is still a lot to uncover here. The mobile device and platforms themselves present interesting opportunities for hacks and vertical cleverness, not to mention deep integration with tech features such as AR and geotagging,” said Gentile.

To read the full version of this feature, purchase a copy of The Drum’s Future of TV issue, created ahead of an Upfronts event being held on the topic on May 8 in New York.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.