By Brandon Houston on April 4, 2016

Make no mistake, autoplay is here to stay. It can be a great tool to advertise products to your customers. However, it’s also a risky gamble. As Digiday noted, many consumers found autoplaying video ads unsettling and annoying, especially if there’s no way to stop the videos before they start. Still, this isn’t to say that your audience doesn’t want a video to start right when they open it. It’s more that they wish to have control over the situation. In order to best suit the needs of your audience, you should consider the logistics of autoplay to ensure that you get the best results for your customers.

Moreover, while autoplay can be a valuable tool in video advertising, it can also adversely affect how you measure your success in any given campaign. The very distinct nature of this video playing mechanic will require you to change the way you understand how your marketing strategy works out in the field of online video. Once you adapt standards that take into account the strengths and weaknesses of automatically playing video, you can have a more reliable understanding of your ads and how your audience reacts.

Something powerful yet annoying
Up until fairly recently, video advertisers were reluctant to take on autoplay. This is because of the direction online video has taken in recent years, according to iMedia. There is a greater desire for on-demand content, and the use of autoplay is a reversal of that. It functions more like television as a result, which is something people don’t necessarily want. Moreover, when autoplay occurs with sound, it often causes discomfort among users because it may interrupt something they’re doing, especially if they tab away from the page.

Autoplay can work when done right.Autoplay can work when done right.

Facebook changed all that. After experimenting with native video, it incorporated autoplay into the mix in December 2013 and made it default for all videos afterward. Digiday noted that since that time, the rise in video views is dramatic, with 3 billion per day. It’s also inspiring people to upload their own videos. While part of this successful deployment may be due to a better handling of this concept than in other places like CNN, it may also be because of Facebook’s dominant market share allowing it great leeway to impose and implement new initiatives. Soon after, other social media outlets such as Twitter deployed similar practices, and now autoplay videos are ubiquitous.

While this is helpful to companies looking to reach audiences on social media, you must consider that many customers will still get annoyed by an autoplay ad if handled poorly. The best example of this, as noted by Entrepreneur magazine, is sound. If a video starts suddenly with loud sound, that can feel very intrusive to the customer. The publication noted a study by Facebook in that when a video plays sound without warning, 4 out of 5 users will turn hostile to both the advertiser and the site it occurs. That is partly why the social media outlet mutes videos by default.

Playing it safe
In order to best address customer concerns, you should take the ideal step and mute your videos automatically when possible. This is especially the case if you’re running the ads not on a social media outlet but a news page or other type of website. People will least expect sound in non-social spaces, and it will easily startle them. One way of ensuring they actually hear the video without surprising them is simply un-muting by either hovering over the video screen or clicking on it.

“Facebook found 40 percent of muted videos make no sense.”

With that said, you should verify that your video ad makes sense without the sound on. The reason for this is that sometimes the viewer will only catch the video midway through, and if the scene requires voice and music for context, the person simply gets confused and will lose interest. This happens more often than you think: The same Facebook study found that around 40 percent of videos were nonsense with audio. If it’s possible to run the video completely silent and get the same message as you would with audio, then it will be much easier to your audience. Another tactic to consider is incorporating a powerful image before the video starts playing. The picture serves as an incentive to watch the video in the first place.

Some brands are approaching Facebook’s muted autoplay with creativity and leveraging it for their ads. One great example is Hotels.com. They created an ad that plays on the fact that Facebook autoplays on mute and created an amusing ad that is meant to be watched on mute and becomes hilarious when sound is activated. Crispin Porter + Bogusky created the video and it’s one of the most effective uses of muted video out there. It received 5-million views in the first three weeks and generated 5X the average engagement for Hotels.com. The creative use of Facebook’s silent autoplay also gained them massive media coverage.

Finally, you should take the time to evaluate your autoplay metrics. Any view that lasts more than three seconds gets counted, so it’s possible that your viewer counts will be exaggerated. You’ll want to look for other ways to measure the reach and reaction of your audience. A simple tool that Facebook now supplies is percentages of people who un-muted the video. To perform such an act requires a voluntary act. That can indicate interest in the video itself.

 

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