Content Tip: Audio or No Audio?

Many of our clients often ask us about using audio with their digital signage. A lot has been written about retail environments, but what about digital signage audio for organizational communications?

As in all things, there are pros and cons to using audio with your messages. The success of using sound will depend on three things: your message, your audience and your environment.

If you’re showing a TV channel or some type of “talking head” video, audio will obviously help your audience to understand the content being shown. Audio that repeats the essential information in a message can also be helpful to visually impaired audience members.

However, if you’re just piping general music or background audio from displays, it isn’t adding anything to your message and may be considered intrusive by those who have to sit near the screens for any length of time. The worst situation is a short audio loop playing over and over again.

Also keep in mind the environment where the displays are placed. Audio isn’t good in quiet spaces, like libraries, or very noise places where it will just get lost in the clutter. Just like your messages, audio needs to be varied and used for impact, not droning or repetitive which can discourage viewers from going near your screens.

Here are a few best practices for using audio with your digital signs:

  • Don’t rely on audio to deliver your message: Digital signage is a VISUAL medium. Viewers may not be able to hear the audio due to background noise or their distance from the screen. Make sure all of the relevant information is delivered in the visual content. If the message doesn’t make sense with the audio turned off – rework the visual design.
  • Use audio sparingly to attract attention: The less you use audio, the more impact it will have. Make sure the audio complements the visual message and doesn’t override or confuse what you’re trying to present visually.
  • Don’t “stack” audio clips: Make sure you never have more than one audio track scheduled at one time. Remember that video overlay audio overrides background and message audio in AxisTV.
  • Never loop short audio clips: We don’t recommend using your digital signage to deliver general background sound. But if you do, make sure you’re not looping a 2-minute sound clip for 8 hours. If you’re trying to create atmosphere, don’t make it an annoying one.

Our general advice is to start without audio and to add it in gradually if you see a clear benefit. Like all communications, you should be monitoring these experiments to see what works and what doesn’t.