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When I attended the Content Marketing Summit last year, one of the key trends highlighted by Facebook's head of agency relations was the move toward more visual content. 

Social video is on the rise, but on Facebook those videos autoplay as users scroll through their news feed. Not only that but they play without sound. 

As a result, brands have been doing some really creative stuff in the last year or so that caters for silent autoplay.  

I’m going to explain why it is wise to do this and show you some examples from brands that have already made a good job of it.   

Why the silent trend?

Think about the way you scroll through your social media feed. It’s an almost lazy action: swipe, swipe, swipe. Waiting for something to catch your eye.  

Because videos autoplay on Facebook but audio doesn’t, the sound at the beginning of the clip will obviously not be heard by anyone scrolling through their feed.  

Given that it’s those first few seconds that are either going to grab a user’s attention or not, it pays to make them as visually engaging as possible given that sight is the only sense you’ve got to work with.   

So in comes the ‘silent film’. A hark back to those dark days when cinema really was without sound.

Except now you can hold the screen in your hands and you can touch it and make it do things. That would have freaked people out in the early 20s.

charlie chaplin silent video

But it’s not just the first few seconds that matter. You might be different, but personally I never turn the sound on when I’m watching video on my Facebook news feed. 

This is usually because I’m on a packed commuter train with no headphones, but it’s also because I’m lazy and I don’t want to break the flow of scrolling. 

So it pays to make the entire video ad suitable for silent viewing. 

Below I’ve presented several examples of brands that have followed this philosophy and created some excellent Facebook video ads that work perfectly without sound. 

Hotels.com

Hotels.com was one of the first brands to make the most of this new trend.

It kicked off its campaign with the below ad, which uses humour and its ‘Captain Obvious’ character to directly address the fact that ads autoplay silently on Facebook. 

Here is the second ad, following the same theme: 

Kraft Foods

You don’t have to be as blatant about it as Hotels.com. Catering for silent autoplay could simply mean holding back on dialogue and instead creating something people can understand through visuals alone. 

This ad for A1 Original Sauce from Kraft Foods is a perfect example of that.

It tells the story of a bottle of A1 getting into a relationship with ‘Steak’ on Facebook.

For the above clip, you really don’t need sound to understand the joke and appreciate the message. 

Kia 

This clip from car manufacturer Kia is another example of how simple, bold text can be used sparingly in conjunction with strong visuals to tell a story without sound.  

Watching the clip below, it is obvious what the campaign is all about. You see people building their own racetracks, in-game footage, and images of the different devices you can use to play the game. 

The text – ‘the task’ and so on – puts everything into context. 

KAFA

This video from Lebanese women’s rights group KAFA is an extremely powerful example of silent video used effectively for a charity campaign on Facebook.  

It uses animation to display stats about the suppression of women in the region in a visually engaging way. 

KAFA facebook video ad

AdCouncil 

No doubt you’ll have seen this one floating around on the internet after it went viral last year. 

Again, the video works perfectly without sound. You only need to see the people behind the x-ray and then watch them appear from behind it to understand the message. 

Mercedes-Benz

To advertise its ‘build your own GLA’ feature on Instagram, Mercedes created the below ad on Facebook. 

As you can see, it is led by clear visuals, and the text within the Instagram app is enough to put the images in context. 

Channel 4 News

This recent clip from Channel 4 News shows how breaking stories can be told effectively through a mixture of video and text. 

Channel 4 News facebook video content

Basic principles...

Hopefully the examples I’ve shown above have given you some food for thought when it comes to creating Facebook ads that cater for soundless autoplay.

Of course, the same principles apply to any channels on which silently autoplaying video content appear.

But the following guidelines should always apply:

  • Go easy on the dialogue, particularly at the start of the clip.
  • Use simple, bold text. Not too much, but enough to put the visuals in context.
  • Create strong imagery to make it visually appealing. 
Jack Simpson

Published 25 January, 2016 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

252 more posts from this author

Comments (1)

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giovanni flore, project manager at fabrica

Great piece. i would add also the AJ+ video-journalism clips as one of the best example in editing excellent subtitles for silent playing, also in case of interviews

8 months ago

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