If a company wants to advertise on Snapchat, or participate in the Discover media section, it’s going to have to format the story/ads vertically. It’s one of Snapchat’s non-negotiables. And it’s a smart one, because Snapchat’s researchers realized something very early on: most people can’t be bothered to turn their smartphones horizontally to view a picture or video. Rather than turning their smartphones around, they would just choose to not view the content at all… which means that Snapchat stands to lose a lot of potential eyeballs (views = revenue).
In a recent profile on Bloomberg, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel emphasized as much when describing the kinds of ads Snapchat is running (emphasis ours):
The ads are about 10 seconds and resemble conventional TV spots, not some novel Internet format. Their most unusual aspect is that they fill the screen when a smartphone is held vertically, without the user having to turn the phone sideways, a distinction the company asserts is important. In its sales document to advertisers, Snapchat claims its users are nine times more likely to watch an entire ad because they don’t have to rotate their phone. In separate research, Google backs up the claim that larger video ads are more likely to be seen. According to a May report from its DoubleClick unit, the most commonly served video ad on the Web and smartphones, a small rectangle that typically appears on the side of a page, is viewed by a pathetic 19.8 percent of visitors to that page. Snapchat’s vertical orientation also means that advertisers can’t repurpose their existing ads, which are in a horizontal format for YouTube and Facebook. Advertisers say the hassle is expensive, but that doesn’t concern Spiegel much. “We are fortunate that we have an audience that is compelling and big enough that people will change their video to make it a better product,” he says.
And here’s the one chart from venture capitalist Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends slide deck that perfectly explains why Spiegel’s company is willing to accept only vertical ads/content…
Simply put: as viewing content on mobile becomes an increasingly popular option for Millennials, vertical viewing will be too. And it’s smart for Spiegel to follow those trends early in the game.