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Can muted video advertising be as effective as video advertising with sound?


Video ads are often muted when seen in social media on a smartphone. This research compared video ads across three Muting conditions: (1) normal (audio), (2) muted, and (3) muted with subtitles. The lab-study results showed that muted ads had lower free brand recall, cued brand recall, and brand recognition than normal ads and adding subtitles did not improve effectiveness on these measures. However, the free brand recall effects were significant only for ads seen in a news environment on a desktop computer. Ads seen in a social media environment on a mobile phone were less effective, measured by free brand recall, which is a difficult memory task. Muted ads were just as effective as normal ads and subtitled ads, in a mobile social media environment, on every measure except brand recognition, which is an easy memory task. These results suggest that muting makes little difference to the effectiveness of video ads seen in social media on smartphones. In the desktop news environment, muting reduced ad effectiveness, measured by free brand recall, but improved ad liking. The negative effect of muting on free brand recall was significant only for ads with high amounts of information (speech and audio branding) in their soundtracks, which was lost when the ad was muted. Two visual strategies (visual storytelling, and referencing shared understandings) counteracted the effects of muting on high audio information ads seen in a desktop news environment.

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All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files.

Code availability

The code used for analysis of the data is also available for download as a supplementary file.


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The authors thank Kyle Thurin for his assistance collecting the biometrics and facial coding data for this study.


This research was funded (as Study 73) by the sponsors of the Beyond:30 project (

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Correspondence to Steven Bellman.

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Conflict of interest/Competing interests

The authors declare the following: this research was funded by a consortium of companies that included Facebook and its competitors (e.g., Google, and television networks). This balance of interests means that this research was not influenced by any single company or industry group.

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Bellman, S., Arismendez, S. & Varan, D. Can muted video advertising be as effective as video advertising with sound?. SN Bus Econ 1, 27 (2021).

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  • Video advertising
  • Brand recall
  • Mobile
  • Social media
  • Desktop computer
  • Muted/silent advertising

JEL Classification

  • Advertising M37