When Digital Brands Learn That People Are Human – Instagram & IGTV Case

There are some basic truths about life and the world we live in.

Largely because they’re based on science or something else that’s just, SOLID.

In case you missed it, digital giant Instagram announced that IGTV has gone against their own grain, by supporting landscape mode. The announcement was made back in May 2019 but my recent iOS app put this thought back in my head.

Short background and context:

  • IGTV is Instagram’s TV-style content platform.
  • It is has a dedicated app but the content can also be shown within Instagram.
  • IGTV launched with vertical video with no support for horizontal. Then, this U-turn to support landscape video.

What’s the basic, solid truth here?

Our eyes are placed side-by-side in our faces. This gives them a horizontal field of view plus an overlap. This means we see things within a horizontal rectangle.

All simple, and natural and obvious so far.

And this has been true since before the internet, computers, planes, cranes, cars, the light bulb, microwaves and basically most things.

So why force people to watch TV-style content through a different shape, like vertical?

Look at your TV, through a pair of binoculars, flip your phone sideways.

Were they all designed wrong?

Or were they designed for humans?

It pains me to see the silly things people do especially within digital spaces.

I’ve preached many times about digital marketers ignoring the rest of, in fact ignoring the pillars of marketing.

But in this example with IGTV, the digital mistake goes as deep as the product itself.

Why would Instagram force unnatural behaviour onto its users?

I can only speculate:

  1. Most logical explanation: People hold their phones vertically, and Instagram/IGTV are the newest generation so they can set a new standard to differentiate from YouTube, and well, the old box that people used to have in their fron rooms. But hang on, many people like to hold their phones horizontally for watching TV-style content. Smartphones were built with the capability to flip the image on its side long before IGTV or even Instagram was invented. And smartphones brands build their products for getting the best use of of the gorgeous screens.
  2. Arrogance: i.e. “We’ll make people do what we want them to do, and they will adapt, because we are Instagram”. Well that would be product management and a lack of care about their users.

Most odd is that Instagram itself began with square photos, but then supported landscape photos. Did they not learn then, with photos? It would seem obvious NOT to make that same mistake for TV-style content.

IGTV made the right change (eventually)

I appreciate when change is made by listening to users.

This is from Instagram’s press site:

“We’ve learned and grown a lot in this first year. In meeting with creators and viewers, we’ve heard about what they like – and what needs to be improved.”

“That’s why we’re announcing support for landscape videos in addition to vertical. Ultimately, our vision is to make IGTV a destination for great content no matter how it’s shot so creators can express themselves how they want.”

I love Instagram and all the creativity it assembles, so I’m glad to see this change!


Brands that try to defy some natural truths will either fail, struggle, change direction, or a bit of all of these things. This is especially true in the digital age.

To me, these are wasteful outcomes (and I dislike waste of any kind).

Brands should quit their arrogance (or whatever their position may be) in their businesses, marketing approach, product management.

This is the consumer age.

And no matter what the age or era, we are human. So unless you plan to change that, for certain things, go with the grain – it’s just common sense.