In June 2016, Snapchat reported that, based on its own internal data, more than two-thirds of the videos delivered on Snapchat were viewed with the sound on.
By contrast, just one month earlier, Digiday compiled the reports of numerous publishers and announced that 85% of video on Facebook were watched without sound.
Of the various platforms available to digital advertisers, sound can be exploited to much greater ends on Snapchat than on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. This makes Snapchat a particularly attractive medium for music artists and labels, but it also opens up possibilities to all sorts of different brands, to create adverts that are as engaging and memorable as possible.
Below, I list some of the best practices for use of sound in adverts, which we have developed over months of testing and use daily here at Fanbytes.
1. Make Your Sound Loud
As with most user-uploaded media on the internet, Snapchat has no set rules or standards about the loudness of content published in the platform, nor does it currently normalize audio.
Therefore, in order to compete with other ads on the platform, it’s important to master your sound loud (pushing 0 dBFS, the maximum possible volume of digital audio) - or, at least, loud enough that it doesn’t come across as quiet in comparison to other content on the platform.
Of course, don’t compress and maximise your sound so much that the volume jumps up unpleasantly every time your ad appears amid other content; the key is to be as loud and as clear as other advertisements on the platform.
2. Forget About Bass Frequencies
While some users may be wearing headphones, most users will either be listening to your sound out of their mobile phone speakers, or low-quality earphones.
Most phone speakers only emit sound from around 300 Hz to 5,000 Hz. So, in particular, don’t focus on including sounds that are particularly bassy, as most users simply won’t hear them.
If you want to optimise your audio for mobile phones, you can safely filter out most of the frequencies under 300 Hz, which can increase clarity and help you master louder.
(I would not, however, recommend filtering out frequencies above 5,000 Hz; this is less beneficial to loudness and clarity, and is more likely to be noticed on devices other than mobile phone speakers).
3. Use Sound Effects to Advance the Theme
Sometimes sound advance a theme in ways which are not possible from visuals alone. Or - particularly in time-efficient, 10 second ads - sound can save time by evoking something quickly, while a visual cue might take too long.
So, for example, in a recent horror-themed ad for Eavesdrop: Chat Stories, we used evil laughter and scream sound effects to augment our advert’s horror-theme (chosen because horror is the most popular genre on the app). This helped make our Eavesdrop campaign one of the strongest app campaigns we’ve run so far in 2018.
Your efforts to add well-synced sound effects will not go amiss on Snapchat, and, simply put, they will make your ads more engaging.
Because the majority of users have their sound turned on, make an effort to include sound effects closely synced with any music and motion graphics you might have.
4. Don’t Forget the Third with the Sound Off
Despite the fact that most users will hear your adverts’ audio, you shouldn’t forget that a large portion of users will still have the sound off.
Because of this, it is often better to include lyrics or important elements of dialogue should also come up as subtitles.
You can use motion graphics to make sure the text itself is an engaging aspect of the ad as a whole. Unlike on Facebook, where having too much text can harm the distribution of your ad, there are currently no such restrictions on Snapchat. It is possible, therefore, to do a lot more with text effects, and make them front and centre at certain key points in your ads, such as during the call-to-action.
Of course, too much text will be difficult to take in, so it’s better to find a balance between written and visual content. Having said that, the more visually-interesting your text effects, the more engaging they’ll be, and the less need there will be to balance out the text with other kinds of content.
5. Signify That There’s Sound in the Ad
Sometimes it’s clear that users should turn on their sound; it’s clear to users that music and lyric videos are more enjoyable with the sound on. However, if sound is important to your ad, but it won’t be obvious to someone who’s got their sound turned off, then it could be useful to use images at the beginning of your ads to signify that there's audio.
Bear in mind, however, that you only have a second or (at most) two seconds to play with here, because you don’t want this to get in the way of your ad’s main goal.
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