With Connecticut’s gubernatorial election less than three months away, Republican candidate Tom Foley may have been failing to reach a specific margin of the state’s citizens — those who can’t hear.
Foley’s television commercials have not been closed captioned this year while Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s TV spots have, according to the president of Critical Mention, a company that uses closed captioning to help both government and non-government firms and corporations track their on-air mentions.
A spokesman for Foley’s campaign said Wednesday evening that the absence of closed captioning in their advertisements was not intentional. The campaign is now in the process of adding them, he said.
For the hearing-impaired, closed captioning — or the feature that allows television networks to run text captions alongside their programming — provides a more comprehensive viewing experience to a medium that may otherwise be ineffective.
According to the model-based estimates made by the Gallaudet Research Institute, the hearing-impaired population of Connecticut reached 36,730 in 2012, or 1.6 percent of the state’s total 18- to 64-year-old population.
And although 1.6 percent may seem slim, it’s larger than the number of votes by which Foley lost the 2010 gubernatorial election, when Malloy beat out the Republican candidate by just 6,404 votes.
Malloy spokesman Mark Bergman said the campaign wants to see the governor’s efforts “broadcasting to as wide a group as possible.”
Bergman continued: “In our advertising we want to make sure that we are communicating as best that we can.”
In a press release, National Institute of the Deaf President Gerry Buckley said advertisers that choose not to use closed captions are missing out on an influential sect of consumers.
“They have buying power,” he said. “They should be seeing it as a part of their responsibility to reach a new audience.”
When it comes to attracting a wider audience, major PR firms agree that closed captioning is one of the more useful tools, according to Critical Mention President David Armon.
Among the agencies that he has helped to track, Armon said the companies that do not chose to include cross-captioning put themselves at a disadvantage with audiences who use that feature on their televisions. Those audiences can include people who are aging, he said.
“Those who were too cheap to do closed captioning missed out on consumer love,” Armon said. “It’s the same thing with politicians — it’s like you’re saying to a specific group, ‘We don’t care about you.’”
Since 2006, the Federal Communications Commission has mandated that 100 percent of all new, English-language television programming must be produced and presented with closed captions. Although commercials have been exempt from the national requirement, the Association of National Advertisers has been pushing since 2010 for all national advertisements to be closed captioned.
“When commercials are not closed captioned, the audio information — including potentially your advertising message — does not reach its maximum potential,” the ANA said in a report. “In addition, the advertiser may be unintentionally communicating to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing that their business is not valued.”
The AMA puts the cost of closed captioning commercials at $250 for a Standard Definition commercial and $350 for a higher definition commercial.