Captioned Video Ads? “How is That Not Already a Thing?”

Image Source:  Hotels.com Facebook Screenshot

Marketing and Advertising Advice you can’t afford to miss.

Captioned Video Ads?  “How is That Not Already a Thing?”

“Good question, Sarah,” I thought, when I read my classmate’s blog post titled Lights, Camera, CAPTION!  I mean, with the passage of the ADA laws came captioning for movies and TV programs, then commercials jumped on board.  Why aren’t video ads also required to be captioned?

I felt like I should know the answer to that question–after all, I used to do captioning or realtime when I was a court reporter.  I was very invested in the captioning requirements of ADA back when it passed.  Court administrators may have thought that video recording could replace court reporters in the courtrooms, but the same equipment and software was used to do closed and open captioning, and also to do Communications Access Realtime Reporting (CART) for the deaf or hearing impaired.

Well, Sarah Vallem didn’t know how to go about getting a video captioned and I didn’t have time to look into it more to explain it to her, so it just stewed in the back of my head for a while.  However, today I saw an article title on LinkedIn that caught my attention and brought it to the forefront again, and I just had to investigate.

Entitled An American Sign Language ad will test your ability to like Facebook videos, Patrick Kulp’s Mashable.com article is about video being “the next big wave for the internet,” and it features the new hotels.com Facebook ads with their mascot Captain Obvious.  Of course, when I read the title, I had to click on it to read the full article.  I mean, Patrick’s title sounds like he is saying that ASL ruins ads.  Can that really be?  Who would think that?

Once I check out the article, I realize Patrick is lamenting the fact that most viewers “don’t stick around” to watch the ads and that the ads that automatically play are the “enemy of a civilized Web experience.” (Totally agree with you there, buddy)  Further reading tells me Patrick is a marketer of some kind, or at least pro-marketing.  So what does that have to do with ASL in ads?  (I don’t think he really means to be negative on ASL.)

He goes on to quote a survey from Goo Technologies wherein they say that only 20% of people pay any attention to online ads, while traditional media ads get about 35% interest.  I hadn’t seen the ads so I clicked on the link to the commercial.  It was GREAT!

What the viewer doesn’t know (unless they know ASL) is that the interpreter is not following what Captain Obvious is saying, which is also subtitled in the ad, but she is offering up a free gift card to viewers.  Talk about viral!  Over 1.3 million views, Over 6,200 likes, and over 3,000 shares is phenomenal.

The truth of the matter is that it isn’t Captain Obvious that is attracting all the attention here.  The people who came up with this campaign are from CP+B with Dan Donovan as the creative lead for the campaign.  It is a really cute/amusing ad, but just in case they don’t get it, I want to make sure it isn’t missed:  Accessibility sells!

These commercials are really a bit of a spoof on Facebook’s autoplay ads that are generally not well-liked by viewers because they sort of spring up on you without warning.  However, the videos have a default setting on mute so they are easily scrolled by without a glance, making advertisers wonder what they paid for.  Having one of these ads with subtitles and an ASL interpreter is great!  Heck, I’ll use Hotels.com just because their people thought of it!

What should be the biggest takeaway for marketing experts from the success of these ads (I saw two with the captioning) is the fact that there are A LOT of people out there that are deaf or hard of hearing (over 5% of the world’s population, or 360 million), and the vast majority of them are CUSTOMERS!

I did some more research, wondering just how many customers I’d be missing out on with a video ad that wasn’t captioned.  The figures are staggering.  According to Gallaudet University, “about 2 to 4 of every 1,000 people in the US are ‘functionally deaf’,” and “more than half” of those “became deaf relatively late in life.”  However, if you included in that number those people with a severe hearing impairment, you are adding 4 to 10 times more people.

In other words, “anywhere from 9 to 22 of every 1,000 people have a severe hearing impairment or are deaf” and “at least half of these people reported their hearing loss after 64 years of age.”  In addition to these numbers, they found that if you included everyone who has any hearing “trouble,” then the numbers are “anywhere from 37 to 140 out of every 1,000 people in the US have some kind of hearing loss,” a large share of which are over 65 years old.  That is quite a market share of customers you are leaving out in the cold with your non-captioned video ads.

The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) has more very interesting quick statistics but I think you get the point.

All of this leads me back to my original reading of my classmate Sarah Vallem’s Blog post.  She pointed out that the people with hearing problems are “just a drop in the bucket of people not watching your video because they are missing out on the dialog.”  She is referring to the rising number of people who are watching videos with their mobile devices while out and around.  Her statistics showed that 30% of the video viewing is done on tablets or smartphones, and that this accounts for 55% of total mobile data traffic.

Another Pew report she cites said that 50% of smartphone users watch weekly video on mobile devices and that “half of YouTube’s traffic comes from mobile devices.”  I never thought of this because, frankly, I am not one of those people (I’m old), but Sarah makes a very good point when she says “Just imagine how much higher those numbers would be if people didn’t have to be worried about disturbing others.”

I know that this article is much longer than the typical internet article, but bear with me:  I am finally getting to my point.  Please listen carefully, all you marketing experts out there—this is the bottom line for you, the Holy Grail, so to speak:  People skip over the videos when they aren’t interested in the product being advertised! 

It’s plain, it’s simple, and it should be a no-brainer.  If I am not in the market for what you are selling, nothing you do can make me buy it.  You can call me naïve, cynical, bitter, or whatever you want, but for the last month, since I started my Fundamentals of Social Media class at EMU, I have been on many different social media platforms a lot.

I’m one of those non-typical, 50-something, second-career students, and I am invested in my education so I embrace all I can to learn as much as I can.  What that means for this class is that I updated my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, resurrected my Google+ and WordPress accounts that were all but dead, and registered on over half-a-dozen other social media platforms and use many of them daily.

I’ve subscribed to untold numbers of blogs, newsletters, and groups having anything to do with social media, and have built a new Twitter account from 0 to 200 followers, and double that for people I am following, many of whom are Influencers on LinkedIn, etc., in Marketing, Social Media, PR, Advertising, etc.  I’ve been sucked into the Social Media blogosphere and have just about Googled my brain researching and studying this field.

I tell you all this not to impress you (okay, maybe to gain your sympathy) but to make sure you understand that I am NOT an expert marketer, advertising guru, PR person, or social media maven.  But I AM a consumer, and I have been on this earth for a while now and have worked with deaf and hard-of-hearing people, in addition to having them as my friends/family.

In addition to that, Facebook and LinkedIn were the only two social media platforms I ever used, Facebook to keep in contact with my family/friends and LinkedIn to keep in contact with my business associates.  From what I know about my friends and family, it’s the same for them.  After listening to my classmates for the last month, most of whom are traditional students, I can tell you this for a fact:  People don’t want a megaphone in their face so they can be sold to on Facebook.

If we see an ad that catches our eye or is something we are thinking about buying, we’ll click on the ad or turn up the volume on the video.  If our friends post an ad link and say, “watch this,” we’ll watch it if we like or if we have time; a good laugh is always good.  But if you start haranguing us, you’re just going to irritate us, and that is very detrimental to your client’s business because we’ll make sure we avoid them.

In today’s society everything moves fast and usually there is too much to do and not enough time to do it in.  If your clients have a new product that’s never been seen before, make an entertaining ad that shows us how much we could use it, but then back off and let it entertain us.  We can watch TV if we want commercials we can’t get away from – don’t do that to us on social media too.  And if you want to be really smart, make your ads captioned or subtitled—you’ll sell more.

Oh, yeah.  Sarah, (and all you video ad creators out there) you can get any video captioned by one of the captioning companies listed on the National Association for the Deaf Described and Captioned Media Program Captioning Service Vendor page.

I’d love to hear what you think about this topic.  Maybe my point of view isn’t as common as I think it is and you really do think that the sign-language interpreter ruins the ad.  Just click respond to leave a comment.

Hotels.com Facebook Ad with Captain Obvious and ASL Interpreter

Hotels.com Facebook Ad

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