General Question

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

Why are commercials louder?

Asked by shpadoinkle_sue (7188points) April 16th, 2010

I’ve noticed that commercials, and even on the beginning of dvds, that they are way louder. I’m wondering if it is a marketing thing. That the advertisers are resorting to louder tactics to get our attention. Or is it just something non-related to marketing? Has anyone else noticed this trend?

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23 Answers

Brian1946's avatar

I’d say that it’s self-defeating stupidity on the part of some advertisers.

They jack up the volume to get our attention, which usually happens, but the realization that this will in turn annoy most viewers and therefore cause them to dislike the product, has escaped them for at least 50 years now.

laureth's avatar

What @Brian1946 says.


partyparty's avatar

Yes I have noticed this. Not only is the music loud, but if someone is speaking they SHOUT AT THE TOP OF THEIR VOICES. It’s awful. Don’t know why it is done, but I wish they would stop.

ucme's avatar

I find that to be the case when watching a dvd.The music compared to the dialogue. Constantly reaching for the remote mildly irritating.

jazmina88's avatar

It does grab your attention, eh?

bobbinhood's avatar

@jazmina88 Just long enough to make me hit mute…pretty sure that’s not their objective. If it were quieter, I would actually leave the volume on for them, and possibly learn something about their product.

It seems like now that some advertisers do it, it’s kind of necessary for all of them to do it. If people turn down the volume when the first loud advertisement comes on, they are unlikely to turn it back up to hear another advertisement. Therefore, even if advertisers don’t want to annoy you with their volume, they almost have to if they want you to hear about your product.

dpworkin's avatar

It’s because some advertisers take advantage of a loophole in the law which states that the commercials may not be louder than the material which precedes it by taking a sample of the loudest potion of the preceding program and using that as a metric, instead of using some sort of averaging logarithm.

Mat74UK's avatar

I’ve noticed it too and it’s fecking annoying!
I do mute many ads like “Go Compare” and “We buy any car”! (If you don’t know these ads think yourself lucky).

partyparty's avatar

@dpworkin That makes such sense to me. Advertisers can always find some loophole.

philosopher's avatar

They want to make sure you hear them. People walk out of the room during commercials.
My Brother In Law is a Copy writer. They will stop at nothing.
I heard they were working on a law which would force this to lower the volume.
I often mute commercials.

thriftymaid's avatar

@jazmina88 Yes, it does—it tells you to mute the TV.

zophu's avatar

To wake you up from the mind-numbing show you were just letting shit in your brain so they can more efficiently brainwash you.

Jbor's avatar

Shamelessly stolen from here:

Why is it that TV stations are permitted to raise the volume during the commercials? I find it very aggravating.
— Bob K.

Ask any TV station this question and you’ll get the same answer, “the commercials are no louder than any of the other programming we broadcast — they just sound louder.”

It’s true, the station isn’t turning up the volume when the commercials run, but that’s not the complete answer. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need to reach for the remote to turn down the volume during the commercial break. So what’s really going on here? This gets a little complicated, so stick with me on this.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

The Federal Communications Commission does not specifically regulate the volume of TV programs or TV commercials. However, broadcasters are required to have equipment that limits the peak power they can use to send out their audio and video signals. That means the loudest TV commercial will never be any louder than the loudest part of any TV program.

A TV program has a mix of audio levels. There are loud parts and soft parts. Nuance is used to build the dramatic effect.

Most advertisers don’t want nuance. They want to grab your attention. To do that, the audio track is electronically processed to make every part of it as loud as possible within legal limits. “Nothing is allowed to be subtle,” says Brian Dooley, Editor-At-Large for “Everything is loud – the voices, the music and the sound effects.”

Spencer Critchley, writing in Digital Audio last month, explained it this way: “The peak levels of commercials are no higher than the peak levels of program content. But the average level is way, way higher, and that’s the level your ears care about. If someone sets off a camera flash every now and then it’s one thing; if they aim a steady spot light into your eyes it’s another, even if the peak brightness is no higher.”

There’s also what Brian Dooley of calls “perceived loudness.” If you’re watching a drama with soft music and quiet dialogue and the station slams into a commercial for the July 4th Blow Out Sale, it’s going to be jarring. If you happen to go from the program into a commercial for a sleeping pill, one with a subtle soundtrack, it probably won’t bother you.

Help is on the way! Last month Dolby Laboratories announced it has developed technology to level out the sound differences that take place during shows and between TV programs and commercials. You pick the volume you like and the Dolby software will make the adjustments in real time automatically.

Dolby Volume could show up in some TV sets by the end of this year or early next year.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Not all parts of the commercial are loud. When they get to the part about causing nose-bleeds, upset stomach, excessive urination, vomiting and erectile dysfunction they practically whisper.
“Huh? What did he just say?”

slick44's avatar

They are louder, I heard somthing about the networks trying to bet a ban on that, so that the commercials are no louder then the show you are watching. Because yes it is very anoying.

filmfann's avatar

It’s the same thing as a small child yelling at his mom, who is talking to someone else.


slick44's avatar

@filmfann ..

warwickmcghee's avatar

there are so many ads that we are exposed to each day, in the hundreds, perhaps thousands, and we realistically only remember a small fraction. i guess this leads to an info overload which may cause us to tune out during a commercial. so jacking up the volume is just a cheeky trick by firms to remember their ad. but if theyre all doin it, whats the point.
do you remember the actual ads (or what company did em) with jacked up volume? or do you just remember being annoyed?

partyparty's avatar

@worriedguy That is so very true, and it’s always shown at the end of the ad. (or worse still, it is shown at the bottom of the screen in the tiniest of writing so you can’t read it) LOL

erichw1504's avatar

I usually mute during commercials, so I don’t really care. But, yea it is pretty annoying. Especially when Billy Mays was on… “HI!!! BILLY MAYS HERE WITH OXYCLEAN!!!”

lilikoi's avatar

^Yes! This.

Yes, I have noticed it, and it is SO ANNOYING. I asked this question a while back on Fluther. One person said what @Jbor generously reproduced for us here, and added that Big Brother was discussing the issue. I was just happy to confirm that I’m not insane.

boffin's avatar

They want you to hear what their selling, when you have your head inside the refrigerator getting another beer.

philosopher's avatar

Especially considering the guy is dead. Will they ever let him rest in peace?

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