The importance of audio in video marketing

Photo of a recording studio. Quality audio is incredibly important to video marketers/

Audio in Video is big in 2017

Video marketing is everything in 2017 and, yes, you’re reading another post about it. Around 75% of all internet traffic is video. Around 5 billion videos a day are watched daily on Youtube. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single minute.
According to a survey by the people at Animoto four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it.

The recentering of the internet around video content is surely a natural evolution that reflects how newspapers, books and the radio lost their prominence to television. It’s inevitable as mobile devices pick up increasingly high bandwidth signals and have increasingly high resolution screens that consumption will move towards more immersive experiences.

It turns out people just really like videos! The past few years has seen marketers rush off their feet to create video content, a form which is unquestionably much more difficult to master than the tweet, the blog post, the social media image or even the podcast.

Audio quality is, without a doubt, one of the most overlooked aspects of video marketing and acts as a massive pitfall for marketers. People are much more forgiving of imperfect video (see: Vine, Instagram videos, Snapchat stories) than they are of imperfect audio. Poor quality audio can cause genuine physical discomfort and that’s the last thing you want your brand to be associated with.

The resurgence of video (and the silent film)

The trend towards faster mobile data speeds and higher resolution smartphone screens led to a massive pivot towards video as a major component of digital marketing.

The emergence of silent autoplay in the Facebook news feed led to the resurgence of the silent film. The evolution of content on mobile reflected the evolution of content generally: firstly there was an emphasis on text (books and newspapers, become ebooks, web pages, text messages), then silent film (reflected in Facebook’s silent autoplay) and finally the move towards a fully-fledged video and audio experience.

Facebook’s use of silent autoplays was seen by many content creators as a way to stack the numbers. This powerful piece by the Youtuber Hank Green goes into the details .

The tl;dr of that piece is that Facebook counts 3 seconds of autoplay as a “view” whereas Youtube counts a view depending on overall video length but usually uses the 30 second mark. A video silently autoplaying on Facebook, appearing in someone’s feed and being scrolled past could be counted as a view even if the user is completely disinterested. The jist of Green’s argument is that marketers were essentially incentivised into making Facebook video content through disingenuous statistics.

Videos like this one by The Verge show the basic formula for the modern silent video. Graphics come from a pre-prepared template, the video is heavy on text and stock imaging is common throughout. There is a royalty free track in the background which adds roughly nothing to the experience. That’s not to say the video is without value. It is based off a more evergreen article (one with a few months of relevancy at least). Organisations tend to make these videos more for evergreen pieces than newsy pieces.

Relatively quick and simple video tools like iMovie (yes iMovie), the Youtube Video Editor, Nutshell and Magisto are being used by digital marketers to knock out these silent videos. The creation of these videos can be left to bloggers and marketers without the help of a video team. This is the main reason that these videos tend to be devoid of voiceovers: there are no specialists involved and the addition of a voiceover would add extra time and expense to the video marketing process.

If you have a content marketing strategy and regularly blog then this style of video could be used to complement your content on social media.

If Facebook is deprioritizing audio then why is audio so important? It gives your brand a voice (literally)

Research has gone into the importance of voiceover and it’s pretty convincing. Videos with words and images that are supported with a voiceover track are shown to be 50% more effective. Why? The dual channel hypothesis. The idea is that humans have a limited capacity for comprehending inputs (in this case sound and sight). Instead of overwhelming people with text alone (or text supported by music) the combination of complementary images and voiceovers mean that people have a greater chance of absorbing your message in a short period of time. Psychologists Mayer and Moreno popularised this idea in their paper “9 ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning”.

This video by the creative agency Column Five explains it brilliantly:

Ultimately marketing is the communication of ideas: if your product is worth knowing about you will need to educate consumers about it.

Accessibility + Reusability

Apps like Anchor FM have popularised snippet sized podcasts that can be distributed easily on social media. This means that if you’re creating a voiceover for a marketing video then it may be suitable to be redistributed as a snippet sized podcast or as part of a larger podcast.

What are the difficulties marketers face when complementing video with audio?

The pitfalls we faced.

I think it’s important to talk about the challenges we faced in creating our marketing video. We studied the modern explainer style marketing animation and created a script that could be complemented with animations. Getting the audio, however, was not easy.

Quality + Sibilance

In primary school I was taught a popular myth that spies meeting at night during the first world war were trained not to use the letter S in their speech because the “s” sound generates is overly loud at certain frequencies than other speech sounds. While I’m unsure about the truth of the spy story, it is unquestionable that the “s” sounds has unique auditory properties. The excessive volume from the letter “s” is called “sibilance” and causes a massive issue in audio recording.

Here are examples from our test run and our professionally recorded versions of the Yatter Marketing Video.

In the first run, recorded on a £20 USB microphone, you’ll notice the sibilance. Particularly if you have headphones in. If your volume is already quite high and you have your headphones in there’s a good chance we’ve just hurt your ears. Sorry.

 

In this (professionally recorded) second clip the sound levels are much more even and we’re no longer suffering from the sibilance issue. Why?

 

Quality microphones and De-essing.

Believe it or not the tools to remove sibilance are often called, very literally, de-essers. Adobe Premiere, Audacity and other recording software tend to have these tools built in so if you cannot control sibilance in your microphone setup then you can at least remove it afterwards. It is, however, quite fiddly and time consuming to manually adjust every instance of an “s”. Proper microphone positioning and a quality recording environment naturally decrease the sibilance in the track, making the edit easier.

We were supported in our recording by Filtr Media, who have years of experience in the audio industry and a high end studio facility. Having the ability to use world class facilities in a professional studio made all the difference and we are genuinely lucky that such a studio exists here in Glasgow.

Headphones

Sibilant recordings aren’t too bothersome on the television or the radio but modern marketers are confounded by the increased use of headphones. As we said earlier, sibilance can cause great discomfort when fed directly into the ears and we are now at a place in content consumption where most sound is consumed via headphones! This means that when you are making audio for your marketing – video or podcast – that it absolutely has to be recorded and prepared properly.

Conclusions

Audio is not as common in video marketing as it is more difficult to acquire at a high quality level and adds additional time to the video making process. Voiceovers, however, add effectiveness to video marketing, making videos easier to comprehend and add a personal touch. “Silent” autoplaying videos on Facebook are a good method of generating interest in your content and catching the eye of people on their news feed and are relatively cheap and easy to make but can come across as soulless. If you don’t always have access to audio resources then voiceovers in video marketing should be used for product marketing and any high-value content if possible and videos should always make sense without the audio on!

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Colin Adam

Colin Adam

Colin is a co-founder and the Director of Marketing at Yatter.