Captions could be key to ad recall this holiday

Research from Sharethrough shows it is one way to combat ad avoidance and improve comprehension.

It may seem like a small addition, but the addition of captions to video ads may be a key differentiator when it comes to standing out in the sea of holiday ads.

A study by ad exchange Sharethrough shows that by adding captions to video ads, consumers were 56% more likely to comprehend the main message of the video, putting it on par with the comprehension of the organic content on the site.

“This is a big improvement especially during holiday time. Not just ad recall, but in completion rates increase and, in some cases, clickthrough rates increase in the test of video,”says Frank Maguire, VP of insights and strategy. “At minimum, advertisers should add captions to all their video ads, or they risk missing out on the 75% of people that keep their phone on mute, up to 62% that keep their computer on mute, and the more than 50% that prefer to watch TV with captions.”

According to Maguire, when it comes to different ad formats for the holiday season, video performs well, but its performance could be better because of ad avoidance.

Sharethrough research shows that when it comes to TV, 79% of viewers look at their phones or other devices when ads appear. Online video suffers as well with 90% of viewers skipping pre-rolls or changing tabs to avoid ads while this same behaviour is practiced by 62% of consumers using desktop computers.

Maguire says the way consumers watch mobile video – by muting the sound – seems to be the way they watch video on all screens, including television. In fact, he says, up to 86% of millennials have their phone on mute all day long. This increase in watching video with sound off has meant most people need to read captions to make sense of videos.

“People are more likely to watch a video on all screens now if they have captions: 72% are more likely on mobile, 60% on computers, and even 57% more likely on TV. The growth of captions on social sites like Instagram and TikTok has even impacted how often people now watch TV with captions on. Over 50% of adults under 45 now mostly watch TV muted with captions on.”

Although Sharethrough has been talking to advertisers about adding captions to videos for quite a while, Maguire says less than 10% actually have captions on them, mainly because of the different steps they have to go through to make the changes. The platform decided to do it for them and launched a product called Dynamic Captions this past July. The product automatically adds captions to the videos, but unlike other platforms, Sharethrough captions are human verified, so they actually match the video word for word.

Next, Sharethrough has started researching how to improve attention to connected TV (CTV) advertising and what can be done to bring attention back onto the screen and make it more engaging for audiences.