Dear Facebook, let me sound off

by Nigel Hollis | July 24, 2017

I value Facebook. It provides me a way to stay in contact with friends and colleagues and, truthfully, maybe show off once in a while. However, this benefit is being eroded by intrusive and now noisy advertising. No, Facebook, you don’t have to copy Snapchat. And, no, you do not have to acquiesce to the demands of misguided advertisers.

I know that in the recent past Facebook has been successful by leveraging its scale and mimicking features offered by other apps. But those features have usually been of benefit to users. Adding auto-play sound is not a benefit. It is an annoyance, an annoyance to me, and an annoyance to others who might be forced to overhear whatever video is playing in my feed.

According to this AdAge article Facebook has conducted months of testing and the article quotes Alec McNayr, COO at social media agency McBeard (no agenda then), as saying,

"Facebook has fabulous testing methodology. It's not going to turn anything on that the majority of the user base hates."

Article author Garett Sloane suggests,

“And even if the new sound-on environment annoys some users, Facebook has eased its users into new, unwelcome ad styles before. People tend to get used to things.”


A while back I wrote in The Global Brand about “death by a thousand cuts”. This is the process by which a company slowly erodes the satisfaction with a product though a series of incremental cost reductions, none of which when tested proves to have a significant influence on preference, but which when taken cumulatively make a big difference. The user base usually does not realize their experience is lacking until they end up trying something better.

So will adding sound have an incremental negative effect? Kantar Millward Brown’s AdReaction: Gen X, Y, Z released earlier this year finds strong negativity towards auto-play ads, with social auto-play performing better than in-banner auto-play (but likely only because users assumed that there was no sound) and social click to play was much better received than either auto-play format. People expect to control their digital experience and as the Coalition For Better Ads research finds video that automatically plays with the sound on is one of the least-liked ad formats out there.

Given the deluge of interruptive and intrusive advertising out there, adding auto-play sound to Facebook ads is simply one more degradation of the digital user experience; but it is an important one since it affects over 2 million people and may well bring many one step closer to installing an ad blocker. It makes me wonder when advertisers will realize that great targeting is useless without creative that engages people on their own terms rather than interrupting them.

So that’s my take, what’s yours? Please share your thoughts. Meanwhile I will get back to my search for the setting that lets me turn off auto-play sound…it must be here somewhere, right?


Leave a comment
  1. Nigel Hollis, July 28, 2017
    Yes, Phil, it should be 2 billion!!! 
  2. Phil, July 26, 2017
    Should that be 2 billion?
  3. Janet Standen, July 25, 2017

    Maybe they listened. It seems to be autoset to "silent" play of videos and ads now, and you have to click on the ad to hear it.  Smart move I'd say as I agree with you - it's not one "annoying" new somewhat invasive development that'll turn us off facebook but the cumulative effect of many little developments!

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