Brands need to take more proactive and deliberate steps to maximise the impact of video ads that are viewed in soundless environments, according to a study published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Colin Campbell (University of San Diego) and Erin Pearson (University of East Anglia) discussed this topic in a paper, entitled Strategies for Creating Successful Soundless Video Advertisements: Speaking Volumes through Silence.

“In many of the places where video advertisements appear, online sound does not play automatically,” the authors wrote.

Watching a video ad without sound could potentially reduce “its ability to attract attention and be understood”, and even undermine “an advertisement’s very meaning”.

Given this background context, the two scholars asserted: “Advertisements for a soundless environment therefore require different strategies.”

Three data sources were used in their study. The first involved almost 3,500 videos ads provided by Unruly, a programmatic video ad company, which were “aired in predominantly soundless online environments over a two-year period”.

Additionally, the authors gathered 29 ads from articles on soundless video advertising and conducted qualitative interviews with eight agency executives who developed and/or created such material.

One resultant insight: “Current practices frequently treat soundless advertising as an afterthought.” The best-case scenario? A director considers it while filming. The worst? A “junior staff member” makes post hoc edits to an ad with this notion in mind.

“Such an approach is short-sighted given that many of the strategies for creating successful soundless advertisements need special consideration when an advertisement is conceptualised and ideated rather than simply shot or edited,” Campbell and Pearson stated.

A key recommendation is for strategies and creative directors to craft ads with this issue very much in mind – armed with the knowledge, say, that “soundless advertisements typically perform better with simpler, visually driven plotlines”.

“Strategies for creating successful soundless advertisements work by increasing the visual comprehensibility of an advertisement, complementing comprehension driven by music or dialogue,” the academics argued.

Another proposal was for “the creation of distinct versions of advertisements” for soundless and sound-on viewing. The study also highlighted the importance of “testing both the sound-on and soundless versions” of video marketing efforts.

There was one final point of guidance. “Brands looking to excel at soundless video must find professionals who are able to ‘speak soundless’,” the study said.

“In major markets, such distinct competencies might suggest the emergence of specialist agencies and professionals devoted to soundless advertisements.”

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff