Editorial: TV Ad Volume: Loud Defeats the Purpose

Jul 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

To be heard, speak more softly. It’s a maxim that marketers on television could do well to learn.
Let’s examine, for a moment, the complaint that too often, the sound on TV commercials seems to blare in comparison to regular programming. Sensitive sorts find loud volume on spots off-putting. They scramble for the remote control when the audio plasters them back against the couch.
While it’s tempting to label those who complain about commercial volume as being excessively dainty, or curmudgeonly perhaps, TV marketers soon may have to take viewers’ sensitivities in this regard more seriously. Last month, a bill was introduced in Congress that would order the Federal Communications Commission to create and enforce regulations requiring that TV spots not be excessively loud.
We agree that the TV viewing experience would be improved by doing away with obnoxiously loud commercials. Which brings up the question: Are we over-sensitive ourselves, or have we stumbled upon a way to keep viewers from tuning out commercials altogether?
A representative of Nielsen IAB told TelevisionWeek that the company wasn’t aware of any research on the question of whether louder commercials are more effective. But the rep made an irrefutable point: Good creative is what makes a good commercial. And volume levels that annoy viewers can’t be good creative.
One could argue that louder commercials serve some tactical purpose: being audible to viewers who get up and head for the kitchen during commercial breaks, for example. But those considerations seem to pale next to the most common reaction to loud spots—hitting the mute button on the remote control.
The question is whether government regulation is the way to go, or whether enlightened TV marketers can be persuaded that they lose eyeballs when they hurt ears. The next question is whether all the players could agree to abstain from trying to stand out by pumping up the volume.
A fable from Aesop, in which the wind and the sun bet over which can make a man take off his cloak more quickly, comes to mind. The wind howled and the man drew his garment tighter; the sun shined gently on him and he took it off.
We hope the wisdom of that parable sinks in with TV marketers before they are forced to confront some form of ham-fisted governmental intervention.


  1. All the government has to say is stop this action.
    If stations want to keep their Lic. they will lower the volume.

  2. I am so tired of the commercials being so loud when they come on tv. What ever commercial comes on so loud I refuse to buy the product and I have boycotted NBC for their participation in the advertisers BS. The other major stations, ABC, CBS, FOX should realize that with this problem of commercials and their assanine reality shows no wonder so many people watch PBS, Showtime, HBO, Bravo etc.

  3. I understand the annoyance of volume in commercials, but WHY? isn’t anyone complaining about the volume in the actual program ?? EVERY channel is guilty of this. One can hardly hear what the person being interviewed is saying. The program itself, they decide they have to play some kind of music (or is it noise) in the background, making it sometimes impossible to hear the program! Do they think it adds to the intreague? NOT ! the suspense ?? NOT!! it adds NOTHING to the program! especialy when they decide to add a SONG with voice to the person speaking! One cannot determine who is saying what !!!!Pay attention to “the ghost whisperer”! ch 2 — it is absolutely horrible! It adds NOTHING to intreague!!!JUST annoying! and hard to hear. all the channels do this –WHY??? I even heard a news anchorman say he will not talk while the music is playing! Dosen’t anyone preview before they foist it on the viewers? or is it they are hiring a bunch of young ‘uns ? the louder the better ??? something needs to be done or they will just have a lot of “young uns” as viewers—us “oldsters” cannot make out what is being said through the noise!

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