‘Hearing Hands’ opens with a montage of logistical meetings, hidden camera setups, sign language training and other preparations, so that Samsung could record their generous act of giving a d/Deaf man named Muharrem, “one day, with no barriers.”
After the audience is told “Here is the big day”, we see Muharrem walk outside with his sister. Muharrem is tagged with a label that says ‘hearing impaired’. This is quite simply all that we ever learn about him. His sister is with him, and she is tagged with “Our contact: Ozlem”.
As they walk down the street, a man signs ‘good morning’, which leaves Muharrem visibly confused. But they continue on, entering a cafe, where a man behind the counter signs ‘we’ve got hot bagels’. After they head out, they encounter a man who drops a bag of fruit. Muharrem and his sister help him pick up the oranges and the man thanks them by signing ‘I’d like to offer you an apple’.
Muharrem asks his sister ‘do you know him’? After they say goodbye to the man, he asks if the man is hearing impaired. That’s when a woman signs an apology to Muharrem after bumping into him. Muharrem wonders ‘What’s going on?’
The production team goes into full gear making sure the signing cab driver pulls up at exactly the right time. At the end of the ride, they get out and his sister points to a large screen that’s set up in the middle of the sidewalk. On the screen is a ‘Samsung call center employee’ who is signing to him. She says “At Samsung we wanted to prepare a little surprise for you. Because a world without barriers is our dream as well. She then describes the video call center that they launched so they can serve all ‘the hearing impaired people’.
Someone from the production team comes out and greets Muharrem by pointing out hidden cameras and telling him he’s been secretly recorded since he left his house that morning. Muharrem looks shocked, at first embarrassed and then wipes away a tear. He then hugs everyone who signed at him. We can only imagine what he was feeling.
Samsung created video call centers in Turkey to provide customer support to d/Deaf and hard of hearing people. This ad should have been geared toward people who might benefit from it. Instead, they trivialized this new service by turning it into a stunt to inspire non-disabled audiences.
This is what stands out to us, we’re told this was a day without barriers, but to us it didn’t feel so much like a day, but rather a cab ride into town with a quick stop at a bagel shop. And it strikes us that if it took that many people that many meetings, just to get a couple of strangers to sign hello to Muharrem, what hope is there?
Leo Burnett states on their website: “This spot shows the difference that a human connection can make to one generally isolated man, which is what Samsung hopes its video call centers do for all their hearing impaired customers.”
We wonder if Leo Burnett and Samsung would have found this man isolated if they came into his world instead of ‘surprising’ him in theirs.