Losing Game: Super Bowl Ads and the Mute Button

28% of spot's impact lost without sound, per researcher

At first blush, it seems almost painfully unsurprising that a television ad is less effective without sound. And the heavens know that the majority of Super Bowl watchers are not going to miss out on the audio of the big game's hyped commercials.

But some old-school sports diehards will still hit the mute button here and there during commercial breaks from the football action in order to be heard in the kitchen that he or she could really use another Schlitz. And in other scenarios, Super Bowl parties tend to be noisy—therefore copy for the ads often gets lost in a room full of conversations.

So it's interesting—for Super Bowl ads or just any old TV commercial—to get an idea of what that means to the brand that ponied up for the slot. According to EyeTrackShop data being released today, 28 percent of an ad's impact is lost in terms of brand recall and general perception of the spot if the sound is off.

The New York-based software firm conducted an A/B test (sound versus no sound) on 165 consumers who viewed "Goat 4 Sale," an ad submission (video below) that's a finalist for the Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl 2013" contest. The consumers' visual attention was broken down into fractions of a second, utilizing EyeTrackShop’s eye-tracking platform, to measure what was seen, in what order and for how long.  

While the data won't likely deter brands from plopping down millions of dollars to be in the game anytime soon, EyeTrackShop president Jeff Bander contends his research should show Super Bowl advertisers how important it is that the visual creative sells the product even without the benefit of the copy being heard.

"Advertisers need to understand that if you can’t communicate your message without sound, you're losing money," he said. "And with a $4 million price tag, a lot is at stake."

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