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. OR, we could just tape or DVR everything and just fast forward through those annoying commercials…

    Oh wait, I already do that.

  2. How about those annoying LOCAL commercials during national events? I’ll bet they get the sponsors to pay extra to blow your eardrums when the switch is made.

  3. I was at a seminar last week about product branding and this example was brought up – that ads market through volume to drill their message into our heads.

    The speaker had a great line that applies to most advertisements… “the best brands are those that whisper” i.e. don’t have to yell.

    One can say the same thing about movies – the best stories don’t have to tell you to feel what the character is feeling, you just feel it.

    One of my favorite action scenes of all time is the Napal saloon fight in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Danger all around, lots of action, but there was almost no music. We didn’t need crescendos and swelling violins to tell us this was a stressful situation, you just felt it.

    Did I get off topic? sorry…

  4. this is so true. My family never believes me when I say the TV gets louder during commercials…so loud that I end up muting the thing…or someone comes in to tell me to turn it down, while I snipe back that it’s the imaginary increase of volume during the commercial that they are hearing…

    and it’s true that the commercials that don’t blast at us are the most effective. I remember a commercial where it was silent up until the last 5 seconds of the advertisement, and half way through it, I looked up to see why no volume was coming out, and ended up watching the advertisement until it ended and another startedoff blasting into my ears.

    • Yes it is TRUE! Show this website to your family. They will have to admit though, when you watch more television than read or talk or if by nature their hearing has become altered, they may not know this right away. Some people are already deaf because of loud s*** in general. This is a problem and it is a LIE when your government tells you that they can do nothing about it. But your government CAN CONTROL what you watch and what information you are privvied to.

      But they sure as s*** just are as helpless as a kitten to something they make money from any way. Why should they turn it down.

      Their other department, you know, the one call IRS, makes sicking percentages off of the commercials that are aired and the money we spend helping them to keep it coming.

      The government benefits as much as the products being sold and advertised. Not only that, THEY control what we buy as well to control us.

      Those pharmaceutical commercials are funded by our government and goodness knows what else. They make billions from advertisements per company who advertises them.

  5. and more power to you for watching Supernatural!!!!!!! :D

  6. Marketing companies are completely run by medicated retarded semi-concious Pakled lifeforms that think there creating marketing magic.

    But 790, how do you really feel?

    Marketing is an interesting business where
    A: People make money doing it
    B: The crap works,
    C: A & B scare me.

    Yes, 790, your TV does ask you questions because they want to “involve” the viewer in the process.. I’ve studied marketing to some degree and it’s a wacky beast the works…

    Colors, info to make people “feel” informed, etc.. it messes with the mind and it works.. Again, Item C!!

    And it all goes back to the ratings systems once again, that help the marketers do what they do..

    Like you 790, aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Because commercials and ratings are both sides of the annoying coin.

    Panda: No, you did not get off subject, you hit one point on the head.. good programming.. good scripts are worthy.. but it’s the canned crap that we have to put up with as it sells the products.

    And face it.. robocop, as loud as it is, means really loud ads, so get ready with those mute buttons!!!

  7. the loudest part of the show you’re watching isn’t louder than the commercials but the commercials stay closer to that maximum volume the entire time. It’s called compression.

  8. doh, i should read first then comment

    • LOL! You’re cute and honest!

  9. (Excuse me today folks I’m a bit pissed at the state of things).
    That being typed:

    Marketing companies are completly run by medicated retarded semi-concious Pakled lifeforms that think there creating marketing magic.

    Btw,(I love it when the TV asks me a question).

    “Is you penis too small, do you have a sore throat accompanied by heart
    irregularities?, are you having a hard time breathing or falling asleep?
    Is that runny nose getting you down? Are you depressed because you have a small penis and a runny nose? Oh yeah did you know its Savings time at your local Ford dealer!!!

    This mantra is all I hear from ads on tv and radio nowadays. At least in til I grab the remote and hit mute. (Its like an Auto-destruct button for ads).

    The fcc has way to much power and directs it in all the wrong directions.

    Of course the commercials are louder than the show. Of course the tv stations can adjust volume so that everything is on the same level.

    If you believe otherwise I have some snake oil that will get rid of that bald spot…

    And to those question ads, my answer is No!

  10. Like all the drug ads I did put a disclamer up…

    Prob I have with most if not all commercials is that I don’t want or need anything their selling.
    And how did Robocop get involved with this?

  11. Like all the drug ads I did put a disclamer up…

    Prob I have with most if not all commercials is that I don’t want or need anything their selling.
    And how did Robocop get involved with this?

  12. Well this site isn’t called Candyland its called Screen Rant and today was a bad day at the dynamite factory.

    Promotional consideration provided by GIECO,

    “Did you know I saved over 150 dollars by switching to GIECO?”…

  13. LOL, believe or not I actually really switched to Geico recently. :-)

    Had to put in a claim and honestly, they were awesome plus they were cheaper than what I had previously.

    Notice the utter and complete lack of ANY affiliate links. :-)


  14. Andy,
    DVR viewing rules. It provokes the question, “What commercials?” and “What Mute Button?” I skip past ads.

    Oh man you had me roaring. Pakleds? Gotta say, TNG gave us some interesting “people.”

    I use English subtitles when I watch DVDs, because I hate rewinding (old term) in order to understand intimate whispered scenes which are followed by some really loud orchestration.

    And last but not least, I do NOT need my ears to bleed, in order to enjoy a movie experience, whether in the theatre or at a friend’s house. Big sound systems and they have to blare the volume…

    790, was that rantyland enuff 4 u?

    • Jim, so true. I invested in the DVR concept over 4 to 5 years ago. However now, they have it to where the advertisers have caught on to our little avoidance and now if you fast forward from commercial to program, that little white thin line jumps to the end or to the beginning forcing you to either watch the program you recorded all the way through or to just delete the program altogether.

      And I delete the program altogether because the DVR function is the only power that I do have in the right not to be forced to watch the commercial.

      Now the DVR programmers are manipulating it so that your DVR will function to screw with your power to fast forward (or advance) the commercial (which is insane to force people to watch a commercial that way.

      Its like consumer stalking to actually manipulate this function which I pay good money for. But the DVR has changed the entire way that I have watched cable. I hardly ever watch anything on real time.

      You will find this problem on the AMC channel, Me Too, ME TV, and those types of peripheral channels and these stations are raising the “nerve bar” toward the more popular stations. Sick little agreements with your cable/dish provider and the advertisements. Now that is George Orwellian control.

      Don’t worry about using old terms. I catch myself when I type out my rants. I am still using the word “tape” instead of “record” (because they outted the VCR so quickly). How funny that you mention that. I guess we all will do this as a whole and that we kind of ‘date” ourselves. I know that I do. Innocent enough.

      No, I am Queen Rant. Its terrible I know.

  15. Jim, I actually wrote about how overly loud the volume is set in movie theaters a while back:

    Going Deaf In Movie Theaters


    • Vic, we have been going deaf since the “Walkman”. I call it, “the personal choice towards fine hearing impairment”.

  16. Good Jim. But you need to write sentance paragraphs better. Haha
    I’ve been told I write and spell like a Pakled.
    He’s very smart, and he knows alot. Yes your very smart. You will fix craft and make us go fast?
    Pakled commander)

  17. Because of these Commercials being very loud, and taking up 20 minutes of each one-hour of my TV time, I don’t even watch “TV” anymore. Instead I download episodes in higher quality without these commercials to watch on my own schedule and without interuption. It’s the way of the future!

  18. Everyone here has made a common point across the board and Jimmy summed it up:

    “I don’t even watch “TV” anymore. Instead I download episodes in higher quality without these commercials to watch on my own schedule and without interruption.”

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen the sign of the times where ads are probably going to start showing up in downloaded content because shows like Jericho, though it isn’t doing so hot in ratings, is the most downloaded show on iTunes (Or was when I was looking it over recently.)

    Advertisers and marketers are starting to recognize that and realizing that even though Nielsen is stuck in the dark ages by just measuring TV viewing, this new realm has to be tapped and they are starting to call for some type of ratings off of the internet. (Which means our days of ad free shows may slowly come to a close.. ug.)

    Thanks everyone.. I’ve got a new subject to tear into in the not too distant future.

  19. There’s 2 tricks they used to use, not sure if digital transmission but with analog they do the perceived loudness trick and also a trick with the compressor.

    TV compresses the audio into a smaller band for transmission. The quiet noises become louder and the louder noises quieter.

    The trick they used to do with commercials was have it really low volume for a tiny fraction of a second, the compressor would then kick in and boost the whole commercial, so it was actually louder.

  20. I absolutely HATE how commercials are louder than TV shows, but I actually CAN do something about it. I work at a TV station. I dub these commercials from tape to our main server every day. Each commercial has bars and tone at the front, and if you set the audio levels to that tone, the commercial ends up waaay too loud. So I just play through the commercial and set the audio levels to the actual volume of the commercial, instead of the tone at the front. Sure it takes a little longer, but it makes me feel better in the end.

  21. A friend of mine once theorized that the future of ads in TV shows is product placement, and that (tech allowing) studios would digitally input products into older syndicated shows. For instance, a Cheerios box could be digitally replaced by Cap’n Crunch in Seinfeld’s kitchen cabinet. This would combat the Tivo or downloading issue. Could we live with that one?

    Who knows what the next gen of ads is. They’re everywhere already.

  22. Bruce,
    Online program commercials are much louder also! When I watched Daybreak and other online eps, it was very annoying…I didn’t want to wake the whole house!

    Thanks for caring! You receive a valuable “reward of omission”: People will not hate your guts.

  23. Panda,
    Product placement is already in full swing. A friend of mine was the one responsible for getting reeses pieces into ET when M&M’s bailed on the movie.. and she retired early from the money she made from selling product placements to studios..

    Every single thing you see in a movie or tv show is there because the maker paid for it to be there.. . The Truman Show just mocked the process that’s been in place for years.

    Sorry .. but we’ve already been besieged there!

  24. Prob is Panda I don’t buy most products they shove down our throats. So these product ads just annoy me.

  25. Another reason the volume is higher and compressed is because most tv ads have subliminal messages in them.

    Its called Subterfuge. And there’s companies that design comercials exclusivly with these hidden messages in them.

    Its pure evil…

    • Its called Mind f*** and we have been projects since the 1950s w/ that psych-ops program.

  26. You guys…. there’s a cool thing here on the site called the “search function.” lol

    Hate Product Placement? Here’s One Culprit


  27. Is tomarrow Solient Green day?

    Anyone know?

  28. “The reason we get “blasted” at commercial time is determined by how the audio levels are recorded when creating their ads.”

    Not true. The audio levels are RECORDED at the same levels as tv shows, but they are later PROCESSED using a Maximizer or a Brickwall limiter during mixdown. The recording process is the same.

  29. THIS is so f*****ing true. The FCC and the damned advertisements ARE psycho f****** loud. Why are we lied to by the government and greedy ass media freaks about everything?

    I knew about that compression loudness crap since 2005 when the SyFY channel as well as admitted that the advertisements are deliberately LOUD so that we cannot miss a thing when we need to urinate or to grab that extra soda.

    Yes, my comment sounds angry and is angry towards the FCC AND these piglets for product sales.

    I hope that they read this because they need to know that WE KNOW that they are damned liars and they can control what they want to control when they want to control it. How in the F are they going to even say that this is all in our “individual hearing” when we are ALL telling these corporate bitches to turn the s*** down? How are millions of consumers coming up with the same complaint.

    I hate being manipulated with effing answers such as “well, it’s OUR problem”. In the 1980s, I know that my hearing was perfect because I was a teenager and never once were the commercials as LOUD as being in the middle of a WAR or in a institution for the insane. We are not just hearing things folks, these ass holes want to control every aspect of your life and put you in debt and give you a heart attack and then have the nerve to advertise for pharmaceuticles and debt relief.

    Maybe we would not be in DEBT if they were NOT appealing to the masses to keep them wanting s*** that they say that we need. More debt + More Commercials+ Louder Commercials? Who is running this s*** here? This is insulting our intelligence in more than just this way. Literally, don’t buy it!

    I mean, to make my case here, I explained to my husband that there is a NAME for the loudness that we are assaulted by and when I typed it in the Google search there were over seven pages of the same explaination which means that not only is this website’s comments asking and confirming the same problem.

    BUT you can pretty damned well guess that for every website there will be 10s to 100s of people like us verifying that THIS IS NOT OUR INDIVIDUAL hearing range, however, that this is a COLLECTIVE NOTICEABLE F****ING IRRITANT and it is wrong and invasive!.

    If I want to buy something, then, I have the right to make that decision with out it following me to another room or manipulating my decision making thereby pissing me off to the point that I am not interested in the effing thing.

    In fact, I have boycotted 9 channels thus far because of too MANY commercials or those with that LOUD effing RETARDED hearing level. And then they have the NERVE to pack in 10+ commercials every five minutes.

    Who in the F is going to purchase all of these things in this ECONOMY?

    Then they have the nerve to decieve us when they are advertising. Does anyone take responsibility for any effing thing any more????

    When I was growing up, I remembered when you could call a TV station directly to ask questions or to comment on anything because it was a time when people had a moral sense of responsibility. SO now, it is no one’s fault for anything.

    I do not know how many of you have subscribe to Comcast, but to tell you how damned idiotic advertising has become, is that when you watch a film from the “On Demand” setting, that you are practically rear ended and up the ASS to watch at least FOUR commercial (repeatedly) throughout the damned movie! Is that nuts or what? Also commercials used to be where they did not show the same s*** in every commercial set.

    Thanks to these cup-rattling begging advertisers, I HATE that effing Dannino commercial or any commercial about soccer effing Moms driving a new vehicle or wigging out over their carpet or flooring, or Sarah Jessica Parker tossing her wig around for that hair dye or that damned GENERIC Pro-Active commercial (the longest f**** commercial in TV history), that stupid weight watchers, Nutra-system and how many times will they advertise “Sherlock Holmes”? Or advertise a damned movie while we are trying to WATCH a movie, How about that damned Peach Tree, Roni Damned Deusch ,JG Wentworth! YUUUCCHHH! And these are a few of the LOUDEST commercials.

    I hate commercials because they teach America to develop hearing impairments and ADHD symptoms.

    You can hardly watch a program with out watching that psycho house wife stick a magnifying glass in her toilet bowl to watch the germs in her toilet go by.

    I mean, not only is it LOUD, but embarrassing to show Americans having Obssessive Compulsive Disorder over her friggin’ toilet.

    On top of that, commericials insidiously teach Americans to develop phobias and other cognitive disorders and have the nerve to use a tug boat horn to drive you to buy some silly s***.

    Let me tell you, her answer is NOT in that LYSOL bottle, but the FOLLOWING commercial will SCREAM to us what her problem truly is. Next, she’ll need CYMBAlTA because she is so morbidly depressed spraying down that kitchen with GLADE sticks and candles. I only recall these commercials because it is probably like those prisoners in Abu-Garib listening to that s*** 70 hours a week with out mercy and that Meow-Mix b**** of a Cat!

    The station or the program DOES NOT need to air THAT many commecials or DOES NOT need them to be so LOUD.

    I have broken our remote for trying to adjust the sound for every commercial. Yes, all of the programs ARE considerably lower in range than the Advertisments.

    So double F the commercials and the garbage crap that you sell to a certain group of people anyway and F the FCC for using partiality with your damned laws and regulations.

    Pretty soon, the advertisments WILL LOSE their audience all together and learn how to service PEOPLE instead of PRODUCT and give a damn about the HUMAN EFFING RACE.

    Okay, I’m done! Thank you SCREEN RANT for ACKNOWLEDGING this issue and for allowing me to Truly Rant! Only in America can any of us get things off our chests as we can. I feel much better now.