Go pick up your T.V. remote. Hit the menu button. Chances are your
T.V. supports closed captioning. Every television over 13″ sold since
July 1993 supports closed captioning by law. More and more people are
watching TV with the closed captioning on, and it’s not just the hearing
impaired. If you aren’t adding closed captioning to your commercials
you are wasting money and losing customers.
A quick look at the numbers
About 4% of the general population and 30% of those 65 and over
have some sort of hearing impairment, making it difficult for them to
understand conversations. While not everyone who is hearing impaired will
use closed captioning, many do. But it’s not just the hearing impaired
who watch closed captioning. My whole family regularly watches TV with
the closed captioning on so my father and grandfather can understand.
It’s also used in noisy public places such as bars and airports.
What happens when you don’t caption
Imagine you are watching your favorite TV show when the commercials
come on. The advertisement is for a hotel. All of a sudden the sound
cuts out. A dry voice comes over the speakers and says “We do not
provide sound for you because we don’t think you are important enough
to advertise to. We don’t want your business”.
When you don’t take the time to caption a commercial, you send a clear
message to the viewer that your product is not meant for them. This is
exactly the wrong message you want for your advertising dollars. But it
gets worse than that. When there are no new closed captions the last
caption stays on the screen for quite a while. So the last caption from
the commercial or show displays on top of your commercial. If you were
advertising luxury cars you might not want a message from an incontinence
product or a competing automaker running on top of your ad.
Captioning commercials is cheap, make sure to do it right
There are several closed caption production companies out there who
will caption your commercial for a small fee. Captioning a thirty-second
commercial runs only about $200-$400. Experienced firms can make sure
the captioning is done right.
Specifically you need to convey the right amount of information.
To get the right emotional impact you may need to caption the sounds
and emotion, not just the words. Using captioning the right way can
help bring home the humor of a funny commercial or the emotion of a
If you advertise a phone number for people to call, make sure
you use the close captioning to display an alternate number for deaf
callers. The deaf use a device called a TDD, which allows them to type
and read instead of talk and listen. Experienced call center staff can
help you set this up.
Return on investment too high to ignore
Given that 4% percent of the population is hearing impaired, it’s
a reasonable assumption that at least 2% of the nation watches closed
captioning on a regular basis. If an inexpensive commercial costs $25,000
to produce and air, and adding closed captioning costs $300, you can
reach an extra 2% of the population for only a 1.2% increase in price.
That’s an instant 67% return on investment. These are numbers that
spell out P-R-O-F-I-T at the bottom of the screen.