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Silence is golden: preparing for the sound-off mobile ad ecosystem

The Drum 13 Jun 2019 04:08

It’s a tense time for publishers.

On average, desktop traffic is declining in favour of mobile. Using the US as an example, 63% of online traffic comes from smartphones and tablets, which means that desktop display traffic, currently sold via a direct sales team and SSPs is also declining. On the face of it, that might not sound like a big deal. It’s not like people are giving up the internet, they’re just consuming more content on their phones. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that the online advertising landscape is changing. Recent headlines made by Apple about its Safari browser implementing Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) which will block all 3rd party cookies by default carry massive implications for publishers when their content is viewed through Safari - the default browser for the world’s 700 million iPhone users (not to mention the 1.3b Apple devices worldwide currently in use). That’s a lot of eyeballs being separated from targeted advertising.

Let’s look at HAVOC (Human, Audible, Viewable On Completion). CBA guidelines dictate that autoplay video ads should be served sound-off, which everyone agrees makes for a better consumer experience - so much so, that most of the major browsers are issuing updates that will block publishers if they try to run out steam video ads with sound on (or autoplay in-stream ads).

This all sounds amazing until you come back to issue that buyers still chase HAVOC KPIs, equating sound-on to success. This ignores the engagement potential of a well-crafted silent ad and comes into direct conflict with the new browser updates.

When online video took off in the mid-2000s, the industry quickly realised that effective digital marketing wasn’t just about putting TV ads on YouTube, yet our KPIs for video today seem to be hardwired to the old TVC ideal.

The future is silent?

The big question is this: are the current benchmarks still relevant? At Unruly we strongly advise our advertiser partners to make more visually arresting videos for mobile or media buyers to consider viewability metrics over audible measurement.

Unruly is conducting further research on the role of audio in the digital marketing mix. We’re working with the global SVP’s of some of the world’s biggest advertisers, who make up our client council - the U7 - to help them navigate this new soundless world. At the core of this is A/B testing [1] creative that has been optimised for sound off - to see whether viewer response differs from the original pre-roll sound on format in terms of emotion, brand recall, brand favorability, purchase intent, ad recall.

To further help advertisers ensure their video content is fit-for-purpose in a sound off environment we’ve just updated our UnrulyEQ Edit Suite toolkit to include In-Article Fix. We’ll take a TVC or pre-roll ad and optimise it for the world of outstream. First, we use UnrulyEQ to identify the most emotionally impactful scenes - according to research by Lumen Partners* the optimum length for outstream ads is 20 seconds. Then we update the branding in the creative and ad sound off elements like subtitles or interactivity.

This couldn’t be more relevant in mobile first markets like ours.

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