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Vertical Content: Reinventing Visual Marketing


Vertical content has been on the rise as media consumption has shifted from desktop to mobile. In fact, vertical viewing increased fivefold from 5% to 29% between 2010 to 2015.

Snapchat internal study suggests that vertical videos have nine times higher completion rate compared horizontal mobile video. Snapchat pioneered vertical content with its innovations like Discover & Live. Before we move into the details of what makes vertical content here is a small backstory on Snapchat Discover.

Back in 2014, Nick Bell (then Senior Vice President of News Corporation) was in charge of setting up a meeting between Rupert Murdoch and Snap Inc CEO Evan Spiegel. The powwow didn’t amount much to NewsCorp, but both stayed in touch even after the meeting.

Both started spending time to discuss what’s wrong with the world of digital content and how they could merge best practices from TV to mobile. As the conversation formalized into an idea, Nick started pitching it to Evan as a feature that he could design.

Evan smiled back at Nick and showed him the earlier prototype of Discover which his team was already working on. It was a makeshift prototype but far from being a product that people could use. Both though had a shared vision for how content should be represented on mobile. Evan for obvious reasons couldn’t resist from offering a job to Nick. Nick, today as the vice president of content, manages the strategy for both Snapchat Live & Discover.

Snapchat Stories

Snapchat Stories was the first effort that put vertical content on the trends map. Snapchat today has around 170 million users who use Snapchat discover to view daily digests and short serialized videos. Snap has partnered with 70-odd media partners including CNN, ESPN, and Cosmopolitan for Discover. Making discover work though had its share of issues.

“The biggest revelation for us out of Discover was that short-form video doesn’t work on mobile. Mobile video is a new format.”

– Nick Bell, Vice President Content, Snap Inc.

Instagram launched stories in earlier August 2016. In March 2017 Instagram Stories blew past Snapchat Stories with over 200 million users using the service. Although Snapchat still leads the way when it comes to videos. Almost every major social network has ‘stories’ feature now.

Vertical Content Stories

Vertical Content: Learning to Use it

Vertical content can be defined as ‘Content designed for vertical viewing and consumption.’ 

So how can marketers make use of vertical content? It turns out they already are, and shorty awards has a category dedicated to best Snapchat Discover stories.

Tell Stories

POV is the longest-running documentary series on PBS. POV team partnered with NowThis (short-form digital content creator) to create ‘POV SnapChat Films‘ on Snapchat Discover. The team worked with independent filmmakers to combine documentary artistry with the aesthetics and interactivity provided by Snapchat. The films created followed a non-linear editing structure. The films were a massive success, earning a total of 4.7 million views & 600,000 unique visitors over two 24-hour windows.

“Whenever you’re concentrating on one object, vertical works better. If you’re trying to shoot a conversation vertically, you’re wasting the space at the top.”

– Gerry Graf, founder/chief creative officer at Barton F


NFL created custom-designed “playing card” that corresponded to players ranking in the weekly power rankings. The unique cards designed displayed a whole lot of information redefining what a “playing card” can be in the digital world. NFL created 32 playing card with each card made live only for 24 hours. The campaign recorded 24.2m total views, an average view time of 1:57 with a staggering completion rate of 72%.


Combing Best of Both Worlds

MTV used Snapchat Discover to launch a new version of its show ‘Story Time.’ The series uses ordinary people and fun animation to recreate tales of wild nights and crazy situations. After the first five episodes, it was clear that the audience loved the spinoff. MTV Discover platform has featured leading celebrities like Nick Jonas, Iggy Azalea, Rick Ross, and Scarlett Johansson.

Vertical videos have already proved to be more efficient compared to horizontal videos as mentioned by Salah Zalatimo.

“I see vertical video as the future of mobile video. We have seen 15 to 25 percent higher click-to-play on vertical video. We are currently reformatting some of our videos into vertical videos. But until we get to a place where content creators think mobile first, it will continue to be suboptimal. There will need to be video made for vertical only, and that is an entirely uncomfortable approach for today’s video producers.”

– Salah Zalatimo, Head of product and tech at Forbes

We are moving to a world where content can be consumed without any restrictions. The world has become multi-screen, and vertical has become the new horizontal.

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