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The Great Deaf Pepsi Super Bowl Ad

February 3 2008 | by

Welcome to Profoundly Yours. This is my very first post, so exciting! If you haven’t read my profile already, here’s a little about me. My name is Suzanne and I am a former journalist. I am also profoundly deaf. Hence, this blog is called Profoundly Yours.

I’ve accomplished much despite my hearing loss. Got an undergraduate degree (in Communications), a Master’s (in Journalism), and then worked at BusinessWeek (you may have seen my column, Assistive Technology?) and the Wall Street Journal. I went on to write speeches at American Express and direct business communications for MasterCard.

Along the way (exactly six years ago) I received a cochlear implant. For the first time, I could use the telephone, tune into music, hear the rain tap-dancing on the street, the microwave’s beep, the subway’s windy whirl, and so much more. And while silence surely is golden, there’s something to say for living life in surround sound. Plus, my eyes welcomed the rest. ;)

My implant has changed my life. For starters, it has made me “better, faster, stronger” (Theme from the Bionic Man!) as far as hearing goes. But more importantly, and to the point of why I’m writing today, it is an excellent example of how technology can help to bridge, or even eradicate, the inequity endured by people with disabilities in both the lifespace and workspace.

Today I’m returning to my roots as a writer and advocate for persons with disabilities. In reality, we are all ABLE — some of us just differently so. There’s a lot to be learned in this space, and I’m a big believer that technology (powered by human ingenuity and will) can take us further, faster — just like it did for Bionic Man (and Woman.) So please tune in to Profoundly Yours for regular news and commentary.


It is the day of the Super Bowl game and I just read that there will be a Super Bowl Pepsi ad called Bob’s House featuring deaf fans.

I think it’s about time that people with disabilities are represented more thoughtfully in sports or other mainstream activities – whether as players or spectators/fans.

This is a good ad for many reasons: One of the characters in the ad actually works at Pepsico in New York, and they run a support network for people with disabilities called Enable. (I wish we had that at my company, which is just down the street from Pepsico.)

Also, in the ad the deaf characters are buddies who are trying to find their friend Bob’s house on a dark street, but they forget which house is his. They banter (er, spat) with each other using sign language. This kind of candidness shows that Deaf people are like everyone else. The ad doesn’t really even depend on their deafness for its humor; it would have been a funny ad if the two grown men, fighting over who lost the directions to Bob’s House, were deaf or not.

But all is not lost, because the buddies use what I like to call “the pure ingenuity and innovation of the disabled.” They honked their horn on Bob’s street until everyone came outside to see what all the commotion was about — except Bob. By process of elimination, they found their friend and were off to the games.

Even if you weren’t deaf you could view the ad and understand the sign language because the ad used open captions. I wish all the Super Bowl ads had been captioned. Why is it that not all Super Bowl commercials are captioned? Here we are at the Oscars of advertising, in the final stretches of football history, and advertisers aren’t putting out all the stops. Pepsi took a great leap tonight and I commend them for it.

Others couldn’t even bother to CAP their commercials. (It costs extra, and the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t require captions until Prime Time: 8pm to 11pm). I wonder it its because the game took place in Phoenix, which means the game started at 4pm, so they essentially found a loophole.

Not good business, my friends. Besides, even hearing people who were watching the game at a bar would have benefitted from the CAPS!! I am going to research this. Stay tuned.

PS: Did you know a Deaf football player at Galludet University in Washington invented the huddle? He didn’t want the other team to see his “signing” as he delegated plays. The huddle turned out to be a solution that is used throughout the NFL today.

  • Beza

    I’ve often felt the same pride when seeing black actors being cast in all white TV shows, movies and commercials. Television and movies (let’s call it media) often addresses universal issues but exclude minority members of our society from participating in those messages by consistently casting full abled caucasians to play roles that could really be played by anyone. What a triumph it was when Friends cast a black actress to play a role that wasn’t dependent on her race. Just a regular, educated cool gal dating one of the main characters. She didn’t embody any of the negative black stereotypes that often come up in mainstream media.

    I guess disabled people feel the same sort of exclusion that other minorities feel. I applaud the Pepsi commercial not because I’m deaf or otherwise disabled, but because I’m all for living in a community where we celebrate our differences while acknowledging how similar we all are at heart.

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