09 February 2010 ~ Comments

“Super” Captions

The Super Bowl is an American tradition.  Even for people that aren’t into professional football, the entertainment value of the evening draws them.  Super Bowls of the past have been known for their outrageous half-time shows and award-winning commercials.  This year’s Super Bowl XLIV was no exception.

Before the game ever happened, we were excited to hear that the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) had worked extensively with the NFL and CBS to encourage advertisers to caption their ads.   The NAD stated, “As a result of these efforts, viewers should notice an increased number of captioned commercials compared to previous Super Bowls.” [read more]

The captioning of 30 second advertisements is not required by law, so any spot that is captioned is done because the company sees value in reaching a greater audience through captioning.

Every year, people in the deaf and hard of hearing community watch and count the number of sponsors who do not caption.  Their point is pretty simple.  If an advertiser is able to spend the reported $2.8 million in airtime on one spot, they surely can afford the hundreds of dollars it would cost to caption it.  Many will then share their findings through networking sites and blogs.  They will also contact the companies to let them know that there is a need for accessibility — even if it is only for a 30 second ad.

From the stats we’ve seen, around 70% of the advertisements during Super Bowl XLIV were captioned.  Of course, this number will vary slightly by market as local stations were also allowed to independently sell specific times during the broadcast.  Overall, 70% is not bad, and it does show improvement over the past years; but it also leaves us wondering why 30% still were not captioning.

For the advertiser, captioning during the Super Bowl, or anytime for that matter, makes sense.  There are 36 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States who rely on captions.  Add to that number the amount of people watching TV from a bar or restaurant, and it’s obvious that a significant portion of their audience is missing their message if captions aren’t included.  Cost isn’t a factor; with millions spent on production and airtime, the costs of captioning are minuscule.

The most likely reason that the Super Bowl experience is not 100% captioned from start to finish is a lack of understanding of the need.  It’s great that the NAD is doing their part.  Consider doing your part, also.  Start making note of advertisements that are missing captions and then contact the companies sponsoring those ads.  With enough continual viewer feedback, advertisers will get the message.

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