Imran Khan, Snapchat's chief strategy officer, took to the stage in Dmexco last week and had a dig at sites such as Facebook and Twitter that run video ads without the sound turned up.
In his opinion, "advertisers are paying video prices for a moving banner ad". But if we remove the competitive context, Khan still makes a valid point. For all Mark Zuckerberg's recent proclamations that Facebook is destined to a video first future, the reality won't escape anyone who uses Facebook on a smartphone (which let’s face it, is everyone).
On the one hand, if you are going to start auto-playing videos on a personal device, common sense must clearly prevail, and speakers shouldn’t start blaring at the same time. But then again that begs the question as to whether the video should be auto-playing in the first place?
While this approach has yielded huge view numbers (albeit with questionable counting methodology), the recent release of tools for third-party measurement of viewability and audibility has finally shed light on just how few people actually listen to video ads on Facebook and Twitter. And it’s even lower than you’d think.
Snapchat is in the privileged position of being the new kid on the block, whose audible/visible data isn’t quite fully open to scrutiny (yet), and is therefore quite rightly using this to its advantage. Snapchat is inherently a multi-sensory platform, whether that be through Discover content, Stories, or individual snaps.
Tools for third-party measurement of viewability and audibility have finally shed light on just how few people actually listen to video ads on Facebook and Twitter. And it’s even lower than you’d think.
It’s therefore logical that ads within this context should benefit. Similar to YouTube, which scores well for audibility and visibility, the ad experience mirrors the user expectation for a video destination, and this comes from the data available.
Of course, all this may be about to change as Facebook begins to expand its ad opportunities within Facebook Live, and the recent announcement that vertical video formats will be allowed on mobile. But in the short-term, advertisers that see Facebook as just a video platform for their brands will inevitably be disappointed.
So what should brands do? Ultimately, they need to point the right weapons at the right target. Snapchat’s ads may be more heard but to presume this is indicative of greater effectiveness is naïve without solid results across a broad base of advertisers.
Despite its recent claims to the contrary, Snapchat’s scale, measurement and targeting is still very much in its infancy compared to Facebook. So, rather than fight audibility, brands have rightly embraced the platform with content fit for purpose.
Apple, for example, previously purveyor of all things broadcast media, launched the iPhone 7 on Facebook with a 107-second video built for a muted world. And Amstel adapted its TV ad for rapid thumb-induced, attention deficiency.
Snapchat may pithily call videos on Facebook "moving banners", and yes it has a point. But the misnomer is "video". Brands should embrace platforms for their strengths, and that includes Snapchat.
Moving beyond the concept of video, and developing a deeper understanding on how people consume content (seen, or indeed heard) on different platforms could well be the key to more effective communication for brands.
Nicholas Larder is the digital strategy director at Mediavest.