The experience of being understood in small, daily encounters is one easily taken for granted. But what happens when someone who expects to face constant communication barriers can suddenly understand everyone he meets?
In a longform advertisement for Samsung, a hearing-impaired man named Muaharrem, along with his sister Özlem, take a walk and run errands in their Istanbul neighborhood. Unbeknownst to Muaharrem, he's being recorded and monitored secretly — and everyone he meets that morning will be signing to him.
The video shows Muaharrem growing increasingly confused by the number of people he meets who are signing: a woman who bumps into him, a man who drops some apples, an employee at a mart and even his cab driver. After a while, Muaharrem and Özlem run into an advertisement board for Samsung's new video call center. A Samsung spokesperson tells them the electronics group worked with his town to put together something "special" for him, all through hours of classes, learning to sign.
Then, the entire neighborhood comes out to greet him, and Muaharrem's teary-eyed reaction says it all.
It's easy to feel cynical about a viral ad. The editing makes it appear like Muaharrem is crying in response to the great new call center Samsung has developed, rather than to having barriers broken down for him. But the emotional truth here is a bit deeper than Muaharrem's experience. Imagine being set apart from the people encountered in daily life — like being constantly surrounded by people speaking an unfamiliar language. Now imagine suddenly, one day, they speak your language.
The video is a nice reminder that advertisements can have a basis in social good — and that to help others feel welcome in this world, people can chip in. Learning a few basic words of sign language can go a long way; it's not a difficult language to pick up on, and it can help make someone feel just a bit less misunderstood.