I am baffled by something I see done again and again. More and more companies, many of them quite large, provide services to people over the age of 60. These are companies that run retirement communities that include housing for people who have dementias, who have had strokes or other medical problems. These are companies that sell supplemental Medicare health insurance policies. These are hospital systems providing health cancer treatment and cardiac services.
These companies have extensive advertising including newspaper (yes, many older people still read newspapers) and television. I am going to go out on a limb and also assume these companies also have extensive advertising budgets.
Now to the thing that baffles me: these TV commercials do not include captions for people who are Deaf or who are Hard of Hearing. Captions, as many of you know, can be helpful for people who might have cognitive disabilities, or whose primary language is not English.
Although people from the populations mentioned above can be from any age group, it is most certain that a large segment fall smack dab in the middle of the group to which these companies are trying to sell their products and services. That is like producing commercials for cereal, cookies or toys and not targeting children or their parents.
Here’s an example of the impression one commercial leaves. The black and white ad shows a sad, almost desperate looking woman sitting in a chair in what appears to be an institutional setting. She pulls from her pocket a folded piece of paper, unfolds in reads it and looks even sadder than before. A woman wearing a medical uniform walks to her, kneels down and takes her hands. The first woman smiles wanly. The words on the TV as the commercial fades away advertise a local cancer treatment center.
Without sound or captions my impression is that the sad, desperate woman is dying and the medical professional is there to ease her way; this however is not the case. The ad attempts to tell the world that this particular cancer treatment center is competent and is saving the sad woman’s life.
Well, I was wrong, wasn’t I? Maybe creating artsy black and white ads with no captions is a bad idea.
Is it possible there are advertising executives who consciously decide not to caption these commercials? Perhaps executives for the companies whose ads are being produced say, “Let’s make it impossible for all those people who have trouble hearing to understand what we are selling. In fact, let’s not make it possible for their Hard of Hearing middle aged children to understand, either.”
I guess they simply never consider adding captioning to their ads. The thought never crosses their minds.
For the sake of providing accessible marketing as well as providing improved marketing that will lead to increased sales captioning commercials is a must.