Mobile Video; Is Sound Still Important?

Without trying too hard, think back to an ad you fondly remember seeing on TV. Depending on your age and where you’re from this will vary drastically, but what made the one you’re thinking of memorable?

It almost certainly provided some sort of emotional reward (was funny, inspiring, nostalgic etc). You probably remember the characters (if there were any). How about the music? Or the jingle that you couldn’t get out of your head? There’s a good chance that for most of the adverts you remember, you also remember a song that helped take you on an emotional journey and made the ad memorable. Or jingle you’d find yourself unexpectedly singing in the shower (and hopefully for the advertiser concerned, remembering or even talking about the brand as well).


“Thank you for the music” 

Effective jingles have just that; the power to stick in your head. Whether with an accompanying tagline or just a melody, they can be used for years, remixed and contemporised. An obvious example is McDonald’s globally used and long standing ‘I’m lovin’ it’ jingle (here in a Japanese ad). Reinforced through various media touchpoints, jingles are another brand code that help build mental availability of a given product or service.

Playing a different role, a good soundtrack can really help dramatise the story. A recent neuroscience study found that music can ‘make or break an ad‘ with ads driven by their soundtrack being more effective at creating long term memory associations. I always think of the Cadbury Gorilla with the Phil Collins soundtrack. I remember the anticipation that went with ‘in the air tonight’ building up as that big gorilla sat at the drumkit against that purple background. Levis use of Shaggy’s Mr Lover Lover is another (showing my age). In fact most good ads have great soundtracks.


Mobile muting 

Now to the point of this article; would your favourite ads work in a social feed?

Think about how we consume video content in social feeds on mobile. Between 75% and 90% of Facebook usage in Asia is on mobile (depending on the country) and globally the platform has over 8bn video views a day. However when these videos start (like on Twitter or Instagram) they autoplay with the sound off.

This is a big challenge for advertisers and their agencies. I continue to see brands across the region persisting with putting content made for TV onto social platforms. This typically results in a very poor view rate (which translates back to a very high cost per view) and little to no impact on brand metrics (lifts in awareness, purchase intent, etc). This is because there isn’t the time to build the story to a captivated audience like with TV, or to wait for the ads emotional apex, fuelled by the power of a soundtrack, to introduce the brand.

Newsfeed environments certainly don’t seem audio friendly. A recent Digiday interview found up to 85% of Facebook video plays without sound. However online video formats can also struggle to deliver audio. Many top publishers have video units that also autoplay without sound, or that are click to play (and therefore often ignored).


No sound, no go? 

Great video ads have sound, so does that mean I should forget social video?

The short answer is no. However you should forget running ads created for TV on social platforms.

I’d recommend still advertising in social as it’s important to have an audience first approach and be where your audience is. With 30% of online time being spent in social (which rises north of 50% in certain SEA markets) it would be a mistake to stop just because your TV ads don’t work particularly well. Its also important to note that the typical buying method for social is CPM, which means you’re paying the same for a static post as you are for video. You’re not getting ‘ripped off,’ you can always run a static ad, but the opportunity lies in customising your content to work most effectively on the platform. This includes formats like Canvas or cinemagraph on Facebook, or GIF’s and scratchreel ads on Twitter. And not forgetting good old video that can be re-edited so it gets across your key brand message faster and without sound (re-sequenced, using subtitles, etc).

Facebook have an internal department called the ‘creative shop’ that works with agencies to give guidance on how to create video that best works on the platform. Unsurprising as it’s in their best interests to keep the ad dollar gravy train going. They advise things such as the ‘3 second audition’ which means captivating your audience straight away. A great example is Apple musics Taylor Swift ad that ran on Facebook and Instagram. The massive advantage here being for millions of people Taylor Swift will certainly make you stop scrolling. It’s also worth noting that apparently Drake’s iTunes sales of the”Jumpman” track in the ad rocketed 431% as a result; showing music can work too (sometimes).


Sound friendly digital platforms 

Newsfeeds and certain online video units aside, there are other digital platforms where sound can work for you and is even encouraged. YouTube for example are keen to emphasise the power of sound to help captivate a viewer and not skip TrueView ads. Snap Ads, 10 second video ads on Snapchat also play with sound. As do value exchange ads found in gaming apps and some online video formats.

The point is however, whilst sound can indeed play a powerful role in dramatising your product or story, you’ll need to customise your content experience to reflect how people use it. Just putting a made for TV video on any these platforms will not have the desired effect. I’ll go into more detail on this in a future post.

Finally, don’t forget how just as video consumption has changed due to digital, so has the way we listen to music. Platforms like Spotify offer ads that can play the same role as radio and deliver that jingle, but often offer accompanying video or visual units that offer click-thru opportunities. With more than 2/3 of users still using the free service meaning they can be reached with advertising which could result in people singing your jingle in the shower.

So there you go, from my perspective audio is still very much alive in the platform first world of digital marketing. Like everything else, it’s the approach needs to be reconsidered.


Jonathan Rudd is regional head of digital strategy at Carat APAC.
This is being republished from

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