Once upon a time, voiceover was the go-to solution for video. These days, more brands are asking whether animated text might be a better option. They’re smart to be asking. The video landscape has changed a lot in the last decade, and it’s worth investigating whether traditional techniques still hold up to scrutiny.
These days, internet connections are faster, more people watch video on mobile devices, and whole social media platforms are built around video sharing. In this video-first environment, getting video right can make a big difference for brands.
The Case for Animated Text in Video
One of the main reasons brands are exploring animated text in video is the trend toward watching without sound. The thinking goes like this, many (perhaps most) people watch video through social media platforms that they access on their phones. When watching on a phone people are much more likely to keep the sound off.
When a narrated video loses its soundtrack much of the message is lost, but animated text can be read even without sound. That doesn’t necessarily mean that brands must stop using voiceovers. This is a long-established method of communication for a reason!
You can still add captions to narrated videos so viewers can read the message, even if they can’t hear the narrator. Take this video we made for LendLedger, for example (turn the subtitles on by pressing CC on the playbar):
Mobile captions like these can be turned on or off by the viewer. That’s helpful for people with hearing impairments and those without headphones in a public place. However, mobile audiences are often scrolling quickly. They may not take the time or effort to turn on captions.
TIP: If you’re creating a video specifically for social media platforms, it’s sometimes worthwhile to add burnt-in subtitles. That way, the text will appear automatically.
However, turning on captions is really a work-around to a problem that can be solved more elegantly by animating text. Consider the video linked below, which we produced for Slice:
This video is made to be read. The text is larger and easier to read than captions. Because the text is animated, it’s more engaging than captions on the bottom of the screen. It’s also timed so the eye easily alternates between reading the animated words and viewing the actions of the characters.
Animated Text Has the Advantage in Some Environments
On Facebook, video ads on your timeline usually start playing without sound as you scroll by them. If your ad doesn’t get clicked (and that probably happens around 99% of the time) visitors can still see and read your animated text. That’s an important advantage for your awareness or brand-building efforts.
On the other hand, B2B decisions are usually still made at desks.. That means key views will probably be on desktop computers or laptops.
But, mobile isn’t the only place where animated words have an advantage over audio. If you plan to use your video on a trade show floor, the noise might make it impossible for people to hear the narration. Some trade shows restrict or even ban the use of audio on the exhibition floor. Animating your text means your message will still get through.
When Voiceover Is the Better Solution
We’ve made a compelling case for animated text, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the ideal solution. There are some situations when the benefits of voiceover outweigh any potential drawbacks.
Voiceover Can Increase Density of Information
When you make a narrated video, you’re utilizing two channels to convey information: audio and video. Narration can sometimes cut through dense information to add emphasis or variety. It can also complement what’s happening on screen by adding additional information or context.
For instance, in the LendLedger video, the visuals show the narrative of the shop owner, but also provide extra examples of the kinds of digital records LendLedger draws upon to provide credit. Combining voiceover and on-screen text makes it easier for audiences to absorb the information.
Narration Can Support Storytelling
Sometimes voiceover is an integral part of the storytelling. When it represents a single character’s perspective it can add human texture and personality to a video. Embedded below is a broadcast spot we made for Dare Breton gluten-free crackers that includes a first-person narration.
Spoken Words are Easier to Translate
If you have a global audience, animated text may not be the most efficient choice. A video that relies heavily on on-screen text t is harder to translate for multiple languages. You’ll either need to remake the whole video for each language, or add subtitles.
Subtitling a text animation video is likely to be distracting and make some part of your audience feel marginalized. Switching the voiceover for different language audiences is more inviting. Plus, it’s much easier than reanimating a whole new video with different text.
If you’re creating for a global audience, you might want to stick with voiceover.
Should Your Brand Choose Voiceover or Animation?
By now it should be clear that when choosing between voiceover and text animation, there are several factors to consider. Rather than making a blanket decision, we recommend choosing the format and style that best fits your message for each video.
Does Your Audience Prefer Animated Text or Voiceover?
The audience should be your first consideration whenever you create a video. Consider the case of the brand that asked us to make a video for an app related to outdoor music concerts. Our first recommendation was to ditch the voiceover. Why? Because this is a product for people that love music. Removing voiceover made music the star of the video. Other lifestyle and youth-targeting brands can probably learn from this example.
Pictures can spark emotions, but few things touch our hearts quicker than a strong piece of music. If you are going for the heartstrings, it might be best to get the voiceover out of the way and let the music do its thing.
There are many examples of this, but here’s a classic, produced at Curious Pictures:
How Will People Watch Your Video?
This brings us right back to where we started. Perhaps the most important consideration of all is whether people are likely to watch on mobile or desktop. There’s no reason to guess here – check your analytics and find out what devices your visitors most frequently use.
All of these factors — audience, storytelling, emotion, and platform — can influence your decision. No single dimension should be the deciding factor. For example, a product for bond salesmen is probably going to be seen on a laptop, but that device will be on a noisy trading floor where audio might not be easily heard.
Choosing whether to use voiceover or animated text with music is a complicated decision. If you need a sounding board to bounce your thoughts off, reach out to the video marketing experts at IdeaRocket. We’re here to help brands create videos that resonate with audiences and deliver results.