Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ad in DC subway may be first commercial media targeting Deaf community

From Express Night Out:

Just before getting on the escalator at the New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U station, you'll walk across a piece of history. It's a floor ad for Convo Relay, a service deaf people can use to make calls to hearing people. And the company believes it's the only commercial media buy targeted to the deaf population in the entire country.

The reason they went for it is right in the station name. The Washington area has one of the nation's highest concentrations of deaf people thanks to Gallaudet University, which is why a Metro ad there was a no-brainer, explains Convo's Wayne Betts Jr. "It means exposure to hundreds going to and from their campus," he wrote via email.

Convo normally relies on video ads, since they allow for the use of sign language. But since Metro doesn't offer them, the company opted for a written message that probably seems just as incomprehensible to hearing people: "Finally, you can hang up on Alexander Graham Bell." It's a nod to how Convo allows users to end calls with one click (rather than having to wait for the service's interpreter to relay the information), as well as a not-so-subtle dig at the inventor. Bell's known in the deaf community for opposing the use of sign language.

According to Betts, the main response they've gotten is, "Whoa, you placed an ad in a public venue?!" It's also generated online buzz, including a vlog post at that's had more than 4,000 views. But to anyone who isn't deaf, Betts suspects it doesn't register at all.

In that sense, it's not different from any of Metro's targeted advertisements. Dan Langdon of CBS Outdoor, which sells space on Metro platforms, says buyers regularly try to home in on a specific demographic. That's especially true at Union Station and Capitol South, where riders are often bombarded with posters about energy issues or upcoming bills. (Both stops were booked every month of 2010 with a "station domination" — the term for buying out every ad in sight.) You'll also see it regularly at the Pentagon stop, where defense contractors like to mark their territory.

"It gets the message to the decision makers. I'm not saying the admirals are taking the train, or the senators. But their aides are," Langdon says. And in the case of the Convo ad, there's no doubt the message is being seen by the right people.