©2000 My Internship
June 8, 2000

Most people leave the couch only during commercial breaks to avoid missing their favorite shows. During the Super Bowl, however, the creative, expensive spots often are the main event.

So it’s surprising that only 17 of the 69 commercials aired during the last Super Bowl offered closed-captioning, ignoring a consumer group of 24 million hearing-impaired people in the United States, according to Captions.com, a watchdog Web site for the hearing impaired.

Captioning is the last step of the video production process, so some companies say it is possible to forget the step or run out of time.

"Our intent is to make our advertising available to everyone out there and it is policy to close caption commercials," said Steve Pacheco, manager of advertising for FedEx, one of the companies without closed captions.

Pacheco said last-minute work by BBDO Worldwide, which represents FedEx, to the final product left no time to create captions. "Everyone is literally running around to finish commercials until the 11th hour," he said.

Karen O’Conner, director of sales and marketing for the National Captioning Institute, said timing should not be a problem.

The Vienna, Va.-based NCI, a company that creates captions for television programs, established offices in New York City and in Burbank, Calif. to meet the needs of the entertainment industry. Employees can caption a commercial in two hours or less.

"We put procedures in place to get them in and get them out fast," O’Conner said. "One thing about commercial production is it’s fast."

Captioning is prevalent in the video-production industry now, with 100 percent of TVs projected o have captioning capabilities by 2001, according to the NCI. "Production people know about it and probably wouldn’t forget," O’Conner said.

The brevity of the process, added to the low cost of about $300 to caption 30-second commercial, makes captioning a smart business move, O’Conner said.

Many hearing-impaired people consider captions important when they choose which products to buy. About 66 percent of hearing-impaired TV viewers buy products that have captioned commercials and 35 percent switch brands, according to the NCI.

"They do watch the captioned commercials and they do switch brands and buy products from advertisers that cater to their needs," O’Conner said.

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