Tips 80

Get 10% More TV for Free!

We've all stayed up way too late drifting off to sleep in front of the TV.  (That's where we see a majority of the infomercials and Per-Inquiry commercials)  And while our significant other is softly snoring next to us, we've got the sound turned off and the closed captioning turned on. 

Does your commercial take advantage of this free signal?

Little used by direct response marketers is the closed captioning signal required by the FCC for all programming on television stations and national cable networks. 

For the uninitiated, closed captioning is that little line of ALL CAPS TEXT that scrolls across the bottom of the screen mimicking what's being said and what would be heard on the audio channel.  (In case you're watching THE SHIELD you'll see lots of words spelled as f%**ing and w$*$e)

Closed captioning is not required for commercial advertisers, but if there were a way to take advantage of this free signal, would you like to learn how?

In the United States, there are 30 million Americans with hearing difficulties.  Add to this the millions of seniors who need a little extra time understanding quick-cut commercials, plus those who stay up late watching CHEATERS and ADULT SWIM, and you've got nearly 10% of the US population not “hearing” your expensive TV commercial. 

Here's how to get closed captioning on your commercials for under $1,000:

First, send your original, BETA SP tape to WGBH or other closed captioning service.  Send all versions including your :10. :15, :30, :60 and 1:20 commercials all at once. They charge by the job length not by project.

Second, include a WORD file corresponding to the audio script for your commercials.  Be sure to use ALL CAPS when you format the script.  (See below for an important tip on the response device)

In about 2 days, the service will send you back a VHS sample of your tape for final corrections.  Review this tape on a VCR with tracking-capability.  (As an example, we noticed that the lettering looked kerned or twisted without an adjustment to the tape tracking) Take careful note of where the TXT window is displaying your closed caption signal. If it's covering up an important part of your broadcast, let the service know they should move the box to the top, bottom, left or right during a given time code.  For instance, you might tell the service, "Move the closed captioning box to the top of the frame between seconds 00:01:01 to 00:01:04"

Once you've approved the VHS tape, the service will send your final generic commercial versions to you or your dubb house.  Use this original BETA SP tape for all broadcast tapes in the future.  If you use broadcast verification veil-encoding, be sure to encode AFTER closed captioning is in place.

Soon, your commercial will be airing not just the regular signal, but also begging for attention with closed captioning when the signal is turned on by the viewer. Plus, you get extra points from the very loyal hearing impaired for addressing their needs. Finally you'll be truly compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.


At the end of traditional direct response commercials, the phone number or website is almost always tagged.  If you're worried about attracting hearing-impaired viewers or addressing their needs in your call center, you call install a custom TTY hotline within your closed caption signal. TTY offers subsidized audio-to-text translation through an operator.  Alternatively, you can push response in the closed caption signal to the web.  Finally, you can use the old phrase “Call the number on your screen” in place of the audio saying “Call 1-800-555-1212”

Go help yourself while helping others using this inexpensive but powerful trick.

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