IGTV – Viva La Vertical

The Rise of Instagram

On the same day as announcing it has reached 1 billion global users, Instagram announced the launch of a new long form video service they are calling IGTV. Users will be given the ability to upload content up to one hour long instead of the current one-minute limit of Instagram.

A direct move to wrestle share from YouTube which has dominated this space for so long and one that could seriously challenge.

And where the audience goes, the advertisers and influencers will follow. Now topping 1 billion users globally, Instagram is a standard media plan component. This is a big change to the artistic platform that had a limited selection of advertisers with the content to match the platforms visual ambition only a few years ago. Advertisers using Instagram as a platform follows a similar growth pattern to the user base, rapid.

In recent years, Instagram has had to battle with Snapchat for share of eyeballs, but it appears that it is now set to increase it’s share further, at the expense of Snap. The average number of stories per influencer is 7.6 on Instagram versus 3.5 on Snapchat according to a study by mediakix. A clear sign that the usability and audience size of Instagram is working for the content creators.


The problem with YouTube

As great as YouTube is, they will be very nervous of this announcement. Very few have tried to challenge YouTube in this space and none aside from Vimeo and Dailymotion have had much of an impact. IGTV potentially brings a level of innovation and user centric approach that they have not had to compete with before (with maybe the exception of Twitch, and certainly not at this scale).

There are flaws in YouTube as a platform and a lot of them may be about to be exposed to users.

The mobile experience isn’t nearly as slick as it should be after ten years of aiming to be mobile first and they’re algorithm for suggesting videos can often be questionable. If IGTV does this right, there could be a real contender on our hands.

A lot of people would have thought that YouTube is untouchable due to its legacy and title as the world’s second largest search engine. However, we don’t have to look far to see examples of how innovation and usability have toppled giants in the past. The rise and fall of Bebo & Myspace or even Yahoo for search, being the most obvious examples. Better usability could take share from YouTube which has notoriously struggled for profitability ever since it’s $1.6 billion takeover back in 2006. 

The move to Vertical

At the centre of this innovation and usability is the #buzzword – ‘vertical video’.

Vertical video and YouTube are not naturally conducive to each other in YouTube’s current form.

The next generation of mobile users are not going to conform to our historic leanings towards horizontal long form. There will be a new wave of vertical video creators that could jump on board with the IGTV announcements and start the next evolution of online video. They started to walk with Snapchat and Instagram videos (and even Vine before that), but we could be on the verge of these creators taking the next step in producing longer form vertical video. IGTV is built for mobile first vertical video, leveraging the full screen in doing so.

We know that gen Z are consuming less and less TV. Surely they can’t be satisfied with only short form video? There’s a gap in the market and IGTV is about to bridge it. As consumers, we are still watching long form made for TV on mobile devices. It’s probably time that vertical video was given a fair shot at producing something meaningful other than updates from influencers on the go or 6 second comedy sketches.

YouTube Vloggers only use YouTube for the audience and the consistency/organisation that it can give them. It’s a home for their long form video on a platform that’s ubiquitous and that makes perfect sense for them. Is it the best platform for them though?

There are many bloggers who were originally only on Snapchat. With the rise of Instagram videos, we saw them navigate both Snap and Instagram to cover of their audience based. Once Instagram reached the same level of functionality as Snap, many users jumped ship and the bloggers cut their work load by focusing on Instagram alone. This helped Instagram strength their offering further. A similar battle could be about to emerge between YouTube and IGTV. The platform that gives users the best functionality will ultimately win in the long run.

There is room for both platforms in my opinion, but YouTube will not have the somewhat easy ride that it has had up until now. Further innovation on both platforms as they go head to head will only bring benefits to the user. Whether the content creators will align with one platform or both will be decided by the audience and this will be based on usability.

Why should brands care and where to now?

With the shift in audience behaviour, brands are looking for new ways to put their expensive ads in safe environments with quality content. The younger the target audience, the harder they are to reach on traditional TV. For that reason, when a new platform like IGTV comes to market from a proven digital marketing success story like Instagram, brands need to take notice.

To begin IGTV will exist as a standalone app as well as an integration into Instagram.  This will give users the ability to treat IGTV how they want, as an extension to Instagram or a standalone service. We’ve seen this before with Boomerang which eventually became a stable part of the Instagram platform (and Facebook in time).

What does this mean for us as advertisers? Nothing right now, ads aren’t an option to launch but this is a test. It is inevitable that we will see it become commercialised once it can pull in enough eyeballs to warrant its investment. What model they will use is the interesting thing for us.  Hopefully we see some further innovation in video creation and we don’t default to the pre-roll. Interactive options are the thing we have our fingers crossed for here.

In the short term, as planners, it may mean we will have further propagation across platforms, but in the modern digital mix, that is half the battle. Determining what platform is right for what audience at any time and weighting up the cost of creative delivery and cross platform tracking ability is a key role in the next evolution of the digital planner.

In an age where a customer centric approach to advertising is more important than ever, we have a battle on our hands to navigate multiple platforms to deliver our message. This issue isn’t going to end any time soon. YouTube have just launched their next move into the music streaming sector with the announcement of YouTube Music set to wrestle Spotify and do away with Google Play. Meanwhile over at Snapchat, a complete platform redesign and further attempts of joining the hardware sector with the next gen spectacles. The lists of moves and mergers goes on and on.

One thing is a definite in all of this however, vertical video is here and not going anywhere but up.

Finally, we might move away from the days of planning a campaign by starting with the TV ad and allowing all the other assets need for the marketing mix to fall out the back of it. We spend more money online than any other channel, maybe creative will start to acknowledge this. In no way does that mean we should move away from TV, we just need to stop letting it dictate what creative looks like across all other marketing channels, including traditional ones. OOH has always suffered from this for years and it is reflected online now. Brands that win online are the ones that plan their creative with all channels from the beginning, not as an afterthought.