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The Influencers

IGTV: Fitting a Landscape World into a Portrait Reality

INFLUENCER: On the launch of IGTV, LP/AD's Alex Shifrin embraces Instagram's narrow vision

IGTV: Fitting a Landscape World into a Portrait Reality

As we grow up, our world seems to shift from portrait to landscape mode. Portrait-formatted school day photos, bubbly birthday cards and comic sections give way to the landscape seriousness of spreadsheets, unfolded novels and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. We used to disparage video shot in portrait mode and any serious travel blogger worth their weight in sea salt would naturally pose in landscape to capture the full effect of the sunset/cliffs/beach that you wish you were at also. 

Enter IGTV. And with it, Instagram is telling us to put away our landscape all-business mindset and re-embrace the portrait days of yore. Back when we didn’t need to focus on the bigger picture. When all we had to do was live in the narrow moment of the now. Of the portrait. When hedonism and the pursuit of the selfie was all that mattered. Back in 2017.

There’s probably a psychology to all this, one that addresses our shorter attention spans and how focusing attention on a vertically aligned piece of content to discard the peripheral distractions gives greater impact to whatever is being shown, or how the hand-held, smaller screen behaviour patterns are more in line with content consumption rather than the bygone UX era of websites, but I’m not going to ruin the fun of a good beach-stroll video.

I genuinely believe that the folks over at Instagram are onto something. Brilliantly, rather than compete with YouTube, they’ve literally turned the industry on its side by embracing a medium that YouTube simply doesn’t support well, which is vertically formatted videos. They look weird on YouTube. But IGTV has made them elegant. And cool.

I’m now digging through my deleted files, sifting over all the vacation videos featuring my thumb and the unintentionally Lomographic scenes of my Jack Russell or my children or my wife to retrieve any vertically formatted videos in the hopes of unearthing a few gems that I’ll be able to share on throwback Thursdays as a way to demonstrate a long-time affinity for this up and coming trend. I was vertical before vertical was all the rage. I refuse to be left out in the cold as I was with Snapchat. Never again. 

I still find myself nodding in ignorant agreement during planning meetings when I hear social media planners discuss geo-filters and pretend to get excited when I’m told that Snapchat’s pricing structure, despite declining uptake, still makes it a worthwhile and affordable piece of media spend. Side note, Snapchat made vertical videos cool a few years ago but no one seemed to really care all that much until Facebook-backed Instagram did the same. 

So, while maybe we’re still a way away from watching The Godfather in portrait mode, we can take a renewed interest in the portrait aesthetic of the videos disproportionately featured on WorldStarHipHop. And as we reframe our collective parameters, I’m going to embrace IGTV and reimagine my world as one that’s narrower while I turn my 393 followers onto fresh perspectives and horizons. 



Alex Shifrin is a managing partner at LP/AD

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