Welcome Back to the Silent Era

01.20.17 / Brian Kelley / Advertising

Good news. I’m finally ready to embrace the world of videos without sound.

I thank all of you for your patience. This hasn’t been easy. I’m an audio guy. I like voiceovers and music mixes. But I get it now, and I accept it. The sound is usually turned down.

And I realize now, it’s a good thing! It’s more motivation to be more interesting more quickly. Much like YouTube’s “You can skip this ad in 5 seconds” button and the “fast-forward x 4” selection on DVRs, the silent option is a reminder that the marketing message is an uninvited guest. Sit in the corner, be quiet, and if you’re engaging, we might look at you.

I think a video for a JBL waterproof speaker is what brought me around. It thoroughly, amusingly and silently convinced me that this speaker sounds great, works underwater, and is fun and cool.

In the video, a man dunks the working speaker into the ocean. Fish leap gracefully into the air behind him, responding to music. He and the woman next to him have no idea the fish are dancing. They’re just amazed by the speaker. It happens three or four times, and it’s funny every time. When the speaker re-surfaces, water splashes rhythmically from the case. It’s working and the bass is booming. I was sold. I thought this sounded like a great speaker, and I hadn’t heard a thing. I was impressed and inspired, ready to welcome the silent era.

I’m even ready to accept the addition of subtitles to my precious videos!

A native video appeared on my computer screen sometime before the holidays. It was done in the style of a talking-head entertainment-news piece. At first glance, it wasn’t interesting. But the subtitles got me. They said that Wes Anderson had directed a holiday video featuring Adrien Brody for H&M. The talking-head video cut to a scene from the piece, and it looked great! Signature Wes Anderson look. Charismatic, comical Adrien Brody as a train conductor. The subtitles caught my attention, and I was drawn in.

But a funny thing happened. I went and watched the full video. No offense to Mr. Anderson, but it was, you know, just okay. If it had popped onto my screen, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have watched it. It was the subtitles in the other piece that got my attention. They beat out Wes Anderson and Adrien Brody. So who am I to say “no subtitles?”

But are subtitles a no-brainer? I’m really not sure. Many industry sources, and we here at MGH, are seeing just 20 percent of videos being watched these days with sound. But in a test, we ran a campaign both with and without subtitles. The non-subtitled version registered 80 to 90 percent sound usage. It’s anecdotal, but it’s interesting.

Nevertheless, the sound is off! I’ll just keep working to make it worth watching.

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