Thursday, March 12, 2015

"An Entire Town Secretly Learned Sign Language To Surprise Their Deaf Neighbor" // I'm not sure how to feel about this...

A former student (Thanks, Emily!) sent me a link to a BuzzFeed photo story about an ad campaign for a video call center for deaf people in Turkey. They set up a deaf man to encounter various people who would greet him in sign language. At the end he finds out it is all for the purpose of an advertisement. Watch the video and read the text from BuzzFeed below.

Muaharrem is a young deaf man from Istanbul, and his sister, Ozlem, teamed up with a production crew recently to give him one hell of an amazing day.

The Leo Burnett ad firm and Samsung organized the huge stunt for an ad campaign. They spent a month setting up cameras around his neighborhood…

…and teaching his neighbors sign language.

In the ad, Ozlem takes Muaharrem out and about on what he thinks is a normal day. That is, until the guy behind the counter of a local shop greets him with sign language.

Then he goes outside and ANOTHER guy signs at him.

By this point he’s starting to get a little weirded out.

He bumps into a woman who signs an apology at him.

Muaharrem and Ozlem get in a cab. The driver signs "hello."

This is the face of a very, very confused man.

The cab then drops them off in a public square where Muaharrem's neighbors greet him.

And the production crew reveals the whole thing was part of an advertisement for Samsung Turkey's new video call center for the hearing impaired.

And he, obviously, loses it, because advertisement or not, it is one of the sweetest things ever.

A Samsung spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed that everything you see in the ad is genuine. Hooray!


I'm not sure how to feel about this ad campaign. It is good that it will expose sign language to people not familiar with it (but how much does an audience with no experience with sign language learn from the commercial?) and it's good that there is a new video relay service for deaf people in Turkey. Hopefully the new service will help provide more than one "day without barriers" for Muaharrem and other deaf people. I suppose for the service to survive it must advertise like any other business. Here in Japan there have been several businesses for an exclusive deaf clientele that simply were unable to survive. The deaf benefit from the technology and services that hearing people use. For example, remember this Apple iPhone commercial?

And remember this iPod Shuffle commercial (in ASL)?

So maybe I shouldn't be so sensitive. Advertisements use anything and everything to get people to buy their products. Perhaps using sign language is a small step towards language equality? And at least these ads use real deaf people (or a real interpreter in the iPod CM) and real sign language as opposed to other so-called deaf/sign language productions on Japanese TV.

What do you think?


1angelette said...

Here is a video I saw. The main critiques were hearing-normativity, superficial levels of sign language knowledge, and Samsung as main beneficiary.

visual gonthros said...

Many thanks for your comment and the link. I hope others will watch the video and see the American Deaf perspective. Lots of good discussion in the comments after the video. Jesse has lots of good points but he also makes some assumptions that might not be true. I am currently looking into the relay service (need to find someone who speaks Turkish or knows Turkish Sign Language) and hope to update this story later.
Thanks again!