Six Tips From Facebook for Using Silent Video Better

Author: Emma Hall   Source: AdAge

Video dominates both Facebook's newsfeed and its advertising space, clocking up more than 100 million hours of views each day.

But moving images have only really taken off on Facebook over the last year, after the social network started to cut out the surprise soundblasts and optimize video for viewing without sound. Silent video means users need no longer fear unwanted noise that is not only anti-social and potentially embarrassing, but also elicits an 80% negative reaction.

Marketers have had to learn to work with this too. The instinct may be to shout about your product or service, but the reality is that – especially when working with mobile – audio can be intrusive. Facebook users are voting with their ears; more than 85% of videos are now played without turning the sound on.

"Silence is a beautiful constraint," according to Rob Newlan, who is the Europe, Middle East and Africa regional director of Facebook's Creative Shop, which partners with brands, businesses and agencies to help drive innovative work on Facebook and Instagram. "You need to understand silence, or people won't engage."

It's not difficult to put your regular ad on Facebook and have automated captions superimposed; Facebook has transcribed more than 50,000 video ads to help train its captioning tool to become more accurate over time.

Captions increase viewing times by 12% and help to make sure that an ad is not one of the 41% of videos on Facebook that are meaningless without sound. However, Mr. Newlan wants marketers to know that there are more creative ways to embrace the silent video era.

Facebook's Creative Hub – an online "inspiration gallery" that was launched as a test in June and opened out to the entire industry in November – supports the Creative Shop in encouraging agencies and marketers to use the platform creatively.

"The Hub allows us to experiment and inspire and educate and to play more with formats," Mr. Newlan said. "It's somewhere we can share work as we build and put opportunities in front of people. There's no single answer; the idea is to work with agencies and brands to explore."

While bold graphics and brash images might seem like the obvious way forward for silent video, Mr. Newlan has identified some more subtle and interesting techniques that can make all the difference. Here are six tips:

1. Silent video can be a poetic medium. Rhythm plays in the brain, even when it is words flashing up on screen.

A UNHCR film featured a cast of well-known actors, including Cate Blanchett, Keira Knightley, Jesse Eisenberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor, reading a list of objects that refugees identified as "The Most Important Thing" they needed to take with them. Mr. Newlan said, "The poem was augmented visually with graphics, pulling people in to a journey through beat and rhythm."

2. Work with a vertical screen. Mr. Newlan said, "Shooting for vertical is new, and it gives an intimate experience."

Airbnb ran its campaign "The only way to experience a city is to #LiveThere" for three months in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Germany, France, South Korea and India, using a vertical screen and targeted content that showcased a range of experiences.

3. Speed and length play a part. Wendy's "4 for $4 Meal" promotion got its message across quickly with a GIF-style video showing options by using eye-catching visuals in the first three seconds, created without any need for sound.

4. Silence isn't always the answer. When, like U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury's, you've paid a fortune for James Corden to bring his famous Carpool Karaoke voice to your Christmas campaign, sometimes you've got to shout about it. Sainsbury's flagged that Mr. Corden was singing and suggested viewers turn up the sound.

5. Bright lights, big sell. Not all brands can get away with this, but Absolut Vodka's limited edition "Spark" bottle was the perfect product for a glittering silent video, with the iconic bottle as the focal point.

6. Tell a great story without sound. Kleenex employed plenty of tissues, logos, captions – and a $1,000 gift – to draw viewers in to its tear-jerking story of an elementary school paying tribute to a much-loved custodian. Average view duration: 23 seconds.