Why Are TV Ads So Danged Loud?

Published 7 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:24 pm,

too loud Why Are TV Ads So Danged Loud?The other day someone was trying to tell me that TV commercials are much louder than the shows we watch, but I couldn’t hear them over the ad that was playing on the television at the time.

In fact, it’s not just on television any more. I was watching a Supernatural episode from the CW website and was assaulted with ads that were much louder than the show through my own computer – and that’s what got me going on today’s Screen Rant.

TV Commercials Are Too Loud, But Don’t Ask The TV Stations About It

Television commercial volumes (I’m using TV as my common reference) are too loud and without a doubt, we know it, but according to your local television station, they effectively insult us by telling us we are wrong.

Call a television station and ask why their commercials are louder, and they’ll tell you they are not louder, they just sound louder. WHAT? OK, so then these words are not bold, they just look bolder. Gimme a break. Our perceptions, and thus, the reality of the situation is that commercials are louder, regardless of what any techno wiz mouthpiece says and that’s that.

So How’s it So Loud If It Isn’t?

The reason we get “blasted” at commercial time is determined by how the audio levels are recorded when creating their ads. Affectively, the process is called dynamic range compression, or “compression” for short. Compression is applied to reduce sounds that get recorded over certain levels while the quieter sounds do not get reduced. In the process, the advertisers take liberal advantage of the mid range tones to exploit our senses, since those aren’t affected as much.

To sum it up, compression is used to increase the average level of sound, effectively making it louder.

The FCC does not regulate the volume of television programs and commercials, though it continually receives consumer complaints about broadcast sound levels and back in 1984 the FCC determined that there was no effective way to control loudness, so they have left us to our own devices and they do not regulate the volume for TV or the commercials we get assaulted by but there is some control in place since broadcasters are required to limit the peak power used to send out their signals.

The only impact that snippet has for us is that a TV commercial will never be any louder than the loudest part of any TV program. I guess that would suck for the advertisers if I were to find a show about grass growing but if we watch a show with lots of gunfire, the advertisers will languish in the affects and we’d be doomed to that level of volume for any ads we get.

So when I was blasted with the ads during Supernatural, it was the effect of all the salt filled shotguns going off that allowed the advertisers to blast me with their own salt, of sorts.

Is Anyone Out There Hearing Our Complaints?

The FCC says they do not regulate the volume of commercials. They go on to say that a commercial being too loud is a judgment call with each individual listener. The FCC says we should “contact the station involved, and identify each message of concern by the sponsor or product’s name and by the date and time of the broadcast.”

Yeah, that sounds useful… seeing how well THAT’s worked to date.

So who really is on Your side?

I am. I need to invent a TV remote that you leave pointed at the TV and it will adjust the volume accordingly, but until I invent that, who is on our side?

Even though advertisers are seemingly unaware that folks are abusing the mute buttons at ad time, Magnovox tried something that didn’t seem to pan out and Dolby has something new coming on the market.

According to the sales pitch (Which was probably louder than the show it was on with) Magnavox’s Smart Sound, which has been around since 1992, truly reduces the loudness of commercials. But various bulletin boards around the internet don’t seem to support that aspect one way or the other. My guess is since no one seems to jump out and say, “HEY, this works, buy it”, then it’s probably a perception more than a result.

But something new is coming at us:

Back in January of 2007, Dolby Laboratories, Inc. demonstrated Dolby Volume, an audio-processing technology designed to address the annoyances of inconsistent loudness in broadcast TV.

It models how we perceive (THANK YOU DOLBY!) audio to eliminate the variable loudness when changing channels or programs while still delivering a vibrant audio experience at low volume by dynamically compensating for the human ear’s lower sensitivity to bass and treble sounds.

In other words, it keeps the perceived aural spectral range consistent when the levels abruptly change; like when a loud commercial appears or the viewer changes channels.

See, someone does care … even if it took 20 years. According to press reports from last year, they said this product could start showing up on the shelves in late ’07 to early ’08.

Until then, we just keep pounding the remote ‘mute’ or volume keys, steadily draining the batteries in the conspiracy to make us buy more batteries for our remotes! (But that conspiracy is for another time.)

Sources: MSNBC, Associated Content, Dolby.com, SF Gate and thanks to
XO Wave for the image

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  1. Hi all

    Yes adds are my bane of discontent. Many businesses pay for the adverts to be louder so that they can hit everyone with their sales – due to most people leaving the room during advert time. It’s a pain in the *** ploy and i’m sick of it. My mute button works overtime.


  2. Why should the consumer have to dish out MORE money to stop being annoyed by the advertisers? It all comes down to GREED. The TV networks now run more commercials than total program time-10 minutes of ads to every 3 minutes of program. Then they have the audacity to litter the screen with tons of CRAP-moving images, promos, permanent logos that take up over half the screen! I’m glad I’m not hearing-challenged, as it even blocks the closed-captioning! The only way to stop it all it to STOP ENDORSING THE SPONSORS AND STOP WATCHING THE SPECIFIC TV NETWORKS until they wise up. You have to let them know too – write them, petition them, forward the letters to the news media, the FCC, etc. Not that long ago, a program would air at least half-way thru before any ads came on and even then for 2 minutes or so, and with a few at the end of the show. Those days are long gone, now we’re bombarded with BLARING ads everywhere, on the internet, even movie theatres who are already raping & pillaging you of your money now force you to sit through friggin commercials as well! Where does the greed end?? Only with the consumer, which will not be an easy feat in this exuberantly materialistic day & age. Capitalism is out of control, and America has lost all of its class! It’s all trash, It’s all greed and gluttony, and it’s only getting worse!

  3. help me pls, i’ve gone into sever depression, and i know is due to the loud, and subliminal messaging; its GOVERNMENT BACKED PROPAGANDA!! (EX:IRAN IS EVIL, HATE MUSLIMS, BE EVIL, HURT PEOPLE, ABUSE DRUGS< TRY DRUGS< TRY METH, TRY CRANK, FEELS GOOD, TRY – I heard and seen it, turn the slow button on if u record a show and its' commercials, watch the coercials in extra SLOW mode, you can see them, look at either the top or bttm of screen, and make your eyes focus, but 'not focus' as if u were lkng slightly away, but keep your eyes on the screen, you will see it…

    • Lol, you have a loud video ad on this page!

  4. Which only means that WE, THE CONSUMERS will have to PAY to have the volume on OUR OWN TV’s regulated so that the greedy corporations stop violating us in that way. I think that THEY should be responsible to PAY -there should be a law that they must get the consumer’s permission to make any type of change that would affect the consumer’s [personal equipment] above or beyond the normal controls, and/or without an option for the consumer to change it back without inconvenience or imposition, that they be responsible to do so or be fined, etc.

    This should really fall under infringement of privacy, because that’s what they’re doing – the consumer pays the cable/satellite companies to provide a service, i.e. to view television programs & movies, they’re not paying to watch the commercials or advertisements, that unfortunately is burdened upon the consumer by the networks. It’s not bad enough that we’re paying astronomical amounts to the cable/satellite co’s. yet have all that garbage-logos/promos trashing half the viewing screen, so distracting you can’t possibly enjoy watching TV anymore, and that the networks are airing more commercial time than program time. The one network I recently ‘timed’ was airing 4 minutes of the program, then 5-6 minutes of commercials, and then 4-5 minutes of the program, etc. It’s absolutely disgusting! Then to add insult to injury they have to BLAST the commercials so loud that it wakes the dead! I couldn’t imagine having little children – trying to get some relaxation & TV time after putting your kids to bed, you might as well forget it! The few times I nodded off while the TV was left on & then practically jumped out of my skin when a commercial came on so loudly that I couldn’t stop shaking because of how it frightened me out of a sound sleep. I’m in the habit now of taking the remote with me everywhere – to the kitchen, the loo, for when the commercials come on – it’s ridiculous!

    Why is it that we can report a disturbance of the peace or a neighbor’s dog barking, or a late night loud party, etc., yet there is no law for someone to do it to you right in your own home without your consent or permission? There has to be something the general public can do – it’s WAY out of hand!!

  5. The that was too loud is that Sawyer School on WNAC-D2
    I Don’t know why they have to be so loud for.

  6. From now on if a commercial does this I will make a note of it, and never buy this product. I have noticed that what they are doing now, is when the commercial first comes on it’s really, really, loud then it drops back to the regular level. This is extremely annoying also. I thought that a policy was put into place that this sort of advertising is banned!!!!!

  7. When a signal is broadcast, it is filled with audio information and that includes volume levels. The technology has been around for YEARS. It’s called compression as mentioned in this article. Why in the world should we have to apply compression on every single TV endpoint AFTER the signal is transmitted to out TV’s when the stations could take some responsiblity and compress this same signal BEFORE it it is broadcast? This would eliminate the need to add yet another black box in the home viewers growing stack of A/V tools.

  8. Have stopped watching programs with too loud commercials. Use the mute or change channels immediately. When did screaming at someone cause them to purchase your product…just the opposite…hate it

  9. I do something EVEN BETTER! I don’t watch LIVE TV. I record all my favorite shows and watch them later (sometimes as soon as 15 min.) so I can fast-forward thru the commercials. Not only do I not hear the loud crap, but the advertiser has lost revenue because I don’t even see their ad. Another benefit, an hour long show is now only 42 min. long without the commercials.

  10. Get rid of commercials all together….

  11. I agree. Use mute when necessary and/or record shows that are most flagrant in their disregard for the watcher. In this way you can fast forward the commercials. *#@&%#@ them.

    • I record pretty much everything for the sole purpose of being able to fast forward through the commercials. If I watch something that hasn’t been recorded, I mute the sound until the commercials are through. I don’t think that the commercials would be so obnoxious if it weren’t for the music that is blared at deafening levels. “Fast Forward” and “Mute” are my favorite buttons on the remote.

  12. they should be same volume as tv shows, simply if they want us to listen we will, however, if too loud we simply hit the mute button and then no one listens to advertisements…that’s what I do and am sure thousands others do the same.

  13. yes I do agree a lot of the commercial ads that they run on television its just too loud; whether it be on basic television or cable its just extremely too loud and annoying sometimes…

  14. I can list about a dozen commercials that are absoultely louder than other programming. The producers are making the soundtracks as loud and full as possible. The two worst offenders currently is the new Heinekin commercial ‘Happy Holidays’ Song by Mani Hoffman. Totally annoying! The other one that is obnoxious is the new Android commercial with ‘Party Hard’ by Andrew W.K. These ads should be banned and their producers should be fined. Seriously.

  15. Oh gosh I know, seriously. It’s getting worse, 4 years after your article, too! My mother is very hard of hearing, and requires the TV to be turned up to about 32 (I own the same TV and listen to it no higher than 21, sometimes as low as 18).

    Sadly this means that you can hear the television – word for word – in the front garden. When adverts come on you’re lucky if you don’t get your eardrums perforated!

  16. I figured out the programming logic used by television stations and networks.
    The key words are “average volume”
    The stations and networks broadcast at a low volume level so the television audience
    Will raise their television set volume to their personal level for viewing.
    Thus when the commercials come on,the commercial volume does not exceed
    Guidlines or laws,
    But relative to programming volume it is very loud which puts the blame for loud commercials
    on the viewer not the station or network.

  17. Television is for idiots. The solution is simple for “loud commercials” : Turn off your T.V., read some books, make friends, engage with the real humanity instead of television.

  18. If you want to avoid commercial noise, there is a personal DVR program called MythTV, which has a commercial skip feature when watching recorded items. It isn’t perfect, but works -most- of the time, and is effective at getting rid of most of the noise. Geek types will consider this well worth doing.

  19. One alternative is to come out with a smart TV that learns the timing when commercial comes on for a program – and / or between sound patterns of the program (the program itself may have bursts of sound) and commercials and react – this will not be foolproof – just as a spam filter box but may work.

    Many countries may not have effective regulations so a TV or receiver with adjusting featurs may work

  20. Instead of the idea of a remote that would control the voice variation during ad’s. I wish, if some one can invet a remote that would automatically switch off the TV untill the ad’s are played and once they are over, we can catch up with the program.