Take Video Ads to the Next Level with Captions

August 22, 2019 BY JACLYN LAZZARI
Updated: August 23, 2023

Online video ads are compelling, but their power increases when you add captions to the equation.

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On their own, videos have the potential to make an impact and to incite action. After viewing branded online videos, such as video ads, 64% of viewers are more likely to buy a product online. Videos are also memorable, which is helpful for brand presence. A notable 80% of viewers recall a video ad that they’ve viewed in the past 30 days.

Verizon and Publicis Media conducted a recent study on the relationship between videos, sound, and captions. The study highlights user preferences and behavior and supports the notion that captions play a significant role in the video-viewing experience.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the role of captions in video ads and how captions can significantly improve reach and brand awareness for all viewers.

How Marketers Use Captions for Video Ads

Closed vs. Open Captions

What’s the difference?

Closed captions are on a separate track from the video, allowing them to be turned on or off with the push of a button Open captions, however, are burned into the video itself, so they’re always showing and can’t be turned off. Learn more

Video ads are not a new concept. You may come across them quite often in your social media feed. Ask yourself, do you stop to watch those ads? Can you remember any details from the ads?

Video ads often pack more of a punch than photo ads–they tend to be more memorable and demand your attention. This is the very reason why marketers across the globe are turning to online videos to market their products and services. It’s one of the best ways to catch consumers in the right place and time and to deliver the right content to them.

We know that marketing professionals are using videos, but are they using captions to enhance the reach of their ads?

It turns out that 66 percent of marketing professionals use closed captions for their video ads, and 61 percent use open captions. 1

It’s clear that marketers see the value in captioning their videos, but why? Why are captions necessary when videos are typically audio-based?

The New Way to Watch Video Doesn’t Involve Sound

The importance of captions for videos is growing because people are turning the sound off on their devices. It’s not that sound isn’t important for video advertising–74 percent of consumers agree that audio is important when watching a video.

But here’s the thing–

While consumers believe sound is important, it doesn’t mean they’re turning up the volume and listening. First-party data revealed that 92 percent of consumers are watching video on mobile and 83 percent on desktops with the sound off. 2

Though this data may sound conflicting, it merely indicates a new trend of viewing behaviors. Of course, watching videos with the sound on is ideal. However, many environments and situations prevent viewers from turning the volume up.

The following are some of the top reasons why viewers prefer the sound off on their devices: 3

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  • Being in a quiet space
  • Not having headphones on hand
  • Captions already allow me to understand video
  • Waiting in line
  • Multitasking
  • Being at work
  • Concerned about language or content
  • Commuting/On-the-go

If viewers aren’t listening to your videos, how can you get your message across to them? The answer is to caption 100 percent of your videos.

The reason why advertisers see the value in captioning their videos is due to this growing user behavior. Marketers are concerned that viewers are muting their ads and therefore missing the content. 4 Captions are useful for videos since one in three individuals have captions on for public environments and 69 percent turn the sound off entirely. 5

Captions give people the viewing experience that they crave–soundless and unobtrusive.

Yes, Captions Improve Video Ad KPIs

The data shows that captions can make videos more accessible and attention-grabbing than their non-captioned counterparts. But do they improve video ad KPIs?

Research reveals that captions improve brand and ad recall within the first 6 seconds of viewing a video ad. The opening moments of a video are the most important. It’s an opportunity to draw in the viewer and keep them watching longer. Captions can make each more likely. 6

Even after the viewer has moved on from the video, captions help to make a lasting impression. Data shows that video ads with captions increase ad memory quality. This means that viewers were able to remember more details from the ad when captions were present.

How to Design the Best Video Ad Experience

You know the value that captions provide to video ads, but how do you optimize your content for sound-off viewing sessions?

Use Open Captions

If you’re hosting your videos on video players that aren’t compatible with caption files or want to ensure that your ads are consistent across devices, open captions are the way to go.

Typically, captions are output as a file separate from the video. A video player then renders the caption file to sync with the video. These are known as closed captions. However, not all circumstances allow you to use a separate caption file. This is particularly true for social media videos.

Marketers often display video ads on social media, but caption files aren’t always compatible with the platforms. If you’re hosting video ads on social media, it’s a great opportunity to use open captions. Unlike closed captions which are a separate file from the video, open captions are embedded in the video itself.




When incorporating captions into the design of your video, always keep accessibility in mind. Make sure that there is ample color contrast between the text and the background. White text on a black background is the standard. If you wish to get creative, you can always test the color contrast.

Additionally, the size of the text shouldn’t be too small since it can be difficult for people with low vision to read. Also, you don’t want people straining their eyes just to read the captions.

Make it Pretty

When videos rely on captions rather than sound, the design is critical. Advertisers should consider several factors when designing “soundless” ads:

Utilize abundant visual cues. In addition to captions, there should be other eye-catching visuals that draw in the viewer. You can also include text overlays in your video ads, such as a brand logo.

Don’t make it too busy, though. Data shows that ad memory quality decreased by 12% when too many elements were present in the ad. Before publishing, take time to consider if your ad is pleasing to the eye.

A good balance of captions and other visual cues will create a harmonious ad that stands out from the rest.

The research reveals that captions have a significant role to play in digital marketing. The people have spoken, and they want captions.

Are you ready to implement captioning into your video marketing strategy? Don’t wait another moment–let’s get started.


Start Captioning Today or learn more about 3Play Media.


1 Advertiser Perception Study, 2018
2 Verizon Media 1st Party Video Content Data Analysis, 2018
3 VM Video & Captioning Consumer Omnibus, 2019
4 Advertiser Perception Study, 2018
5 Verizon Media Video Ad Forced Exposure Test, Nov 2018
6 Verizon Media Video Ad Forced Exposure Test, Nov 2018

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