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Can muted video advertising be as effective as video advertising with sound?

MediaScience is the leading provider of lab-based media and advertising research, incorporating a range of neuro-measures including biometrics, facial expression analysis, eye tracking, EEG, and more. With state-of-the-art labs in New York, Chicago, and Austin, MediaScience is discovering actionable insights in advertising, technology, media, and consumer trends.

Dr. Duane Varan, the global authority of neuromarketing research, founded Audience Labs (formerly the Interactive Television Research Institute) during his tenure at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, in 2001. In 2005, he launched the Beyond : 30 Project, a consortium exploring the changing media and advertising landscape, and in 2008, he was approached by Disney Media Networks to set up a dedicated custom research lab on a broader scale – and so MediaScience was born. Though he officially left Murdoch in 2015, he continues to maintain some research links with the University of South Australia and has been widely recognised for his innovative contributions to teaching and the neuromarketing industry as evidenced by a long list of awards and over 90 published academic papers in his field.
Below is an abstract from one of his papers about whether muted video advertising can be as effective as video advertising with sound, from the SN Business and Economics journal.


Video ads are often muted when seen in social media on a smartphone. This research compared video ads across three Muting conditions: (1) normal (audio), (2) muted, and (3) muted with subtitles. The lab-study results showed that muted ads had lower free brand recall, cued brand recall, and brand recognition than normal ads and adding subtitles did not improve effectiveness on these measures. However, the free brand recall effects were significant only for ads seen in a news environment on a desktop computer. Ads seen in a social media environment on a mobile phone were less effective, measured by free brand recall, which is a difficult memory task. Muted ads were just as effective as normal ads and subtitled ads, in a mobile social media environment, on every measure except brand recognition, which is an easy memory task. These results suggest that muting makes little difference to the effectiveness of video ads seen in social media on smartphones. In the desktop news environment, muting reduced ad effectiveness, measured by free brand recall, but improved ad liking. The negative effect of muting on free brand recall was significant only for ads with high amounts of information (speech and audio branding) in their soundtracks, which was lost when the ad was muted. Two visual strategies (visual storytelling, and referencing shared understandings) counteracted the effects of muting on high audio information ads seen in a desktop news environment.

Bellman, S., Arismendez, S. & Varan, D. Can muted video advertising be as effective as video advertising with sound?. SN Bus Econ 1, 27 (2021).

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