Culture

Facebook Testing Autoplay Ads with Sound Turned Up

Are they trying to irritate everyone?

Facebook has been testing autoplay video ads that load with the sound turned on, instead of off as usual, Facebook said Tuesday, confirming a report by Mashable of a test in Australia.

“We’re running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start,” a Facebook spokesman said. “For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we’re running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook.”

Facebook popularized autoplay video ads, but it has also made sure that their default volume was “mute” so as not to turn off users. The problem has been that most of the ads are therefore viewed silently, forcing advertisers to find creative ways to get consumers to turn on the sound — or to build ads that work without volume.

Facebook has certainly been trying to convince advertisers that sound off is just as good as sound on if only marketers bring the right creative. Earlier this year, Facebook chided marketers with a report that 41% of video ads were still meaningless without the sound. It also reported that people hate ads that just pop up with the sound on.

It’s almost as if Facebook finds out what people dislike, and immediately puts a team on finding ways to implement what everyone hates.

There really shouldn’t be that much consternation about making ads that are visually appealing and don’t rely on the sound. That’s what print and billboard ads have been doing forever. Whatever sound is used can just be looked at as a bonus way to get the message across and the focus can be kept on the visual.

Sadly, Facebook users tend to be the most docile in all of Social Media Land, and have been used to what has long been a clunky, inferior platform. It’s just the platform that got huge first, so it has the luxury of being awful. It will probably one day soon become the “network evening news” of social media, appealing only to an older demographic.

For now, it’s the 800 lb. gorilla and can do whatever it wants.