The clever Hotels.com workaround for muted Facebook video ads

Videos on Facebook are defaulted to “mute,” a feature that may be nice for consumers but isn’t the best way for a brand to advertise its creative out loud. To solve the issue (somewhat) Hotels.com, the hotel-booking site, worked with CP+B for new video ads that get the message across even if you can’t hear them.

“Interpreter” stars brand mascot Captain Obvious using subtitles and an interpreter using American Sign Language to talk about the brand. If the video is mute, it features subtitles. If it’s on, you hear the Captain talking about using the Hotels.com app. There’s even a third message — which you only get if you know American Sign Language. (She says that if you understand her, type “Gift me” into the comments to get a gift card.)

The second spot is “Piano,” featuring the Captain ostensibly playing a beautiful melody on a piano. Unmute the sound and you find out that he isn’t in fact, quite doing that. The first spot has been viewed almost a million times, and CP+B said that they’ve seen fivefold engagement numbers for these ads versus other video ads. The brand added that organic reach was nearly 10 times higher than their other Facebook video ads.

“Online video is a critical part of our marketing approach, and Facebook offers us unique opportunities with their video offering,” said Mike Wolfe, senior director brand marketing at Hotels.com. “Our objective with our silent ad campaign was to increase break through, and ultimately engagement with our audience, through platform-specific creative.Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 5.36.55 PM

Wolfe said the brand also wanted to add a unique aspect: a hidden message for the ASL community. “We wanted to reward people who were paying attention and those that could understand the signed message. The reaction on this so far has been very positive.”Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 5.35.09 PM

“It’s not that the lack of sound on the Facebook player is good or not good. It is what it is, and the challenge for any brand is to create work that’s as interesting and relevant to each medium as possible,” said Dan Donovan, vp exec creative director at CP+B. “We thought it would be interesting to create an ad designed for the way they play silently by default. And we thought it would be fun and have a chance to break through.”

Video ads — muted — appeared on Facebook about a year ago, and the company said last month that users view about 4 billion ads a day. Media buyers say auto-play ads also generate higher engagement than static, non-video ads.