Facebook announced that it will be automatically captioning video ads so that brands can still get their message across, but without being intrusive to the user experience. Later this month, Facebook will launch automatic captioning in the US and Canada. Brands can currently add captioning to their videos manually but this will put the bulk of the work in Facebook’s hands, with advertisers being able to edit before posting. In addition to doing the captioning for advertisers, Facebook will also provide brands with the number of viewers watching their silent ads.
Facebook conducted testing that showed 80% of people reacted negatively to ads that automatically played with sound in their newsfeed. The reaction wasn’t just negative towards the sponsoring brand, but also towards Facebook.
Another issue plaguing advertisers is that most people leave their phones on silent or vibrate when they are in public spaces, such as on a bus, or in a restaurant, rendering videos reliant on sound useless. Catchy music and sound effects are wasted ad spend when the mobile user just scrolls past and there is no context for what they are watching. The problem is that 40% of video advertising is geared towards working with sound, so when a user bypasses an ad because it’s not interesting enough to capture their attention without blaring in their feed, the advertiser fails to hit the mark, and the ad loses its impact. Graham Mudd, Facebook’s Director of Ads Product Marketing, told Business Insider that 55% of people who watch the first three seconds of a video will watch the next ten seconds; that means advertisers have mere seconds to capture a user’s attention.
Facebook is pushing brands to be mobile friendly and that means changing the way video ads are presented on smaller screens. TV ads are not constrained by size and mobility because they have a captive audience that must sit through a commercial to get back to their programming. While it’s true that viewers can skip ads or change the channel, they are still a stationary audience and more likely to watch the advertisement since they are already committed to viewing.
On mobile and tablet, where the user is often on the go, advertisers must earn their attention, as echoed in the sentiments of Mark D’Arcy, Chief Creative Officer of Creative shop, “Great mobile video is not about demanding people’s attention, it’s about deserving it.” This prompted the social platform to come up with a way where video advertising can still occur, but in a more native, and non-grating manner.
A few brands have been quick to jump onboard. Absolut Vodka created an ad that catered to captioning and ran it in a Friday night time slot on Facebook’s news feed. The result was a success; Absolut saw a four-point lift in brand favourability at the conclusion of their campaign.
Although it’s still the “early days,” silent ads with captioning have shown an increase in viewing time by 12%. Facebook is encouraging brands to tell their stories in visually appealing and versatile ways, by making the most of typography, images, and great graphic design that can be as captivating without sound.