Silence Is Golden: Why Companies Are Turning to Muted Ads

As they have over the last decade, social media platforms are still redefining and reinventing advertising requirements. Twitter limits content to 140 characters, Facebook allows only 20 percent or less of the image field on its display ads to be comprised of text, and Snapchat photo or video messages can run for a maximum of 10 seconds.

These constraints force businesses outside of the traditional advertising box to create fresh ways of delivering engaging content to potential customers. But Facebook is now ushering in a new era in advertising — the age of the silent video.

Muted video

Entrepreneurs who explore this innovative angle’s success are finding unique ways to capture their target customers’ attention without saying a word, and you can do the same.

A Quiet Revolution

Research revealed that 80 percent of Facebook’s users dislike loud ads playing in their newsfeed. What’s more, nearly a third of respondents to a recent survey watch at least one video per day, and almost half favored muted video ads.

In response, Facebook has set its video ads to play automatically, but without sound. must have taken note of these findings, as it launched a fantastic silent video campaign with its piano commercial last year. The ad addressed the audience immediately and acknowledged that they were likely watching the video without sound via Facebook’s silent auto-player — strategies that earned it 5 million views within just a few weeks of airing.

And major brands aren’t the only ones getting quietly creative with their advertising; several news outlets are, too.

One of my favorite news pieces was a 90-second ad featuring a piece of Banksy’s artwork in London that relays the entire story through text at the bottom. With such great visual storytelling, it may not have even needed captions — the first time I saw it, I clicked the sound on to try and learn more.

Channel 4 Facebook video screenshot

Making a Big Bang Without Sound

The success of silent videos is measured in two ways: Did viewers understand your message and connect with your brand? And did they attempt to engage further by turning on the volume or clicking for more info?

Here are four steps to crafting the perfect silent ad and generate awareness for your brand:

1. Focus on the first two seconds

Think you have five seconds to capture your viewers’ attention? That’s a thing of the past. As users quickly scroll through their social media feeds, you have less than three seconds to grab their attention.

As Facebook discovered, about half of a video campaign’s value comes in the first three seconds of content. Quickly captivate your audience by speaking to them directly and acknowledging the soundlessness of their experience. Be blatant, and ask them to watch further.

Including a countdown is one of my favorite ways to keep an audience engaged throughout an entire commercial. People will often watch to the end just to see what the “surprise” is.

2. Plug your brand, fast

The chances of a random viewer watching more than 10 or 15 seconds of your commercial are rare. If you’re running a direct-response campaign, include your call to action within the first 10 seconds, or they’ll likely never see it.

Research shows that 74 percent of an ad’s value is created by viewers who watch it for less than 10 seconds. Reach this level of engagement by showcasing the benefits of your brand and using a clean title card that spells out your offer. By removing distractions, people will be able to discern if they want to take advantage of the deal.

You can also spark interest by connecting scenes to the lifestyle your brand is targeting. For example, if you run a travel app, show someone relaxing in a hammock on a beach. That image will appeal to most viewers and they will associate that feeling with your brand.

Facebook silent video screenshot

3. Use titles to highlight your product

People will likely scroll past your video if they see a talking head on camera, but can’t hear him or her. Including subtitles or general title cards to accentuate your offer can bump up an ad’s average view time by 12 percent.

Facebook makes it really easy to automatically add captions to your videos, which is the bare minimum. To create a more engaging piece, add more creative titles and highlight features of your product or service with clever motion graphics.

4. Tell a (silent) story

All effective commercials tell a story. Whether funny, poignant, or exciting — to spur an emotional response, follow a narrative that accurately represents your brand. Connecting with your audience through storytelling opens them up to hearing more about your brand, as opposed to turning them off by pitching a sale.

Creating a compelling story on video without sound can be challenging. We are all human, so be sure to include powerful imagery that shows people laughing, smiling, crying, or embracing someone, for example. What do you relate to when watching a video? Translate that feeling into a visual story you can share with your audience.

As silent videos continue to storm social media and win over consumers, harnessing the power the muted ad format will help you appeal directly to your target customers by providing them with an intimate glimpse into your brand in action.