TV's Ad Sound Check: Not Hearing You Through All The Noise

U.S. viewers may be fast-forwarding commercials in a greater number -- which seems in direct relationship to the ever-increasing volume of TV commercials.

For some time now, savvy TV marketers/programmers have been jolting viewers to lunge for the remote after the room-temperature sound volume of a programming segment ends and before the high noise of a TV commercial starts.

But that's about to end; Congress is getting involved. And it's about time.  The House Energy & Commerce Committee is readying the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act . Otherwise know as CALM. Nice.

Long before DVRs, I did my own part to avoid commercial distractions -- turning down the sound, keeping the peace. The button is right there on your remote. It's called MUTE.

This move was much to the chagrin of my father, who was used to the loud ambient noise of New-Wave music selling cars, or toilet paper jingles accompanied by energetic -- high volume -- commercial announcers.



The goal is obvious: The higher  the volume of commercials, the greater chance viewers will sit up and take notice. But badgering isn't the way to go about it.

Louder commercials feel somewhat desperate: TV networks, TV marketers, and their media agencies are obviously looking to make up for TV's lesser clout -- especially on network TV, where there has been viewership erosion.

Now, this has drawn the attention of those they least want to get involved: Congress.

My suggestion: Lower the TV din; pump up some new marketing notes.


4 comments about "TV's Ad Sound Check: Not Hearing You Through All The Noise".
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  1. Nelson Van elderen from Grand Valley State University, October 6, 2009 at 3:05 p.m.

    I recall back in the '60s seeing plans in an electronics magazine for a "commercial zapper" that worked by detecting the large change in volume level when a commercial came on. It would then mute the set until the volume went back down. Maybe that technology could be brought back and built in to our TVs so we wouldn't need the new law. Better yet, have it trigger an automatic fast forward for our DVRs, then you would quickly see an end to the annoyance of loud commercials.

  2. Kent Bosworth from the bosworth group, October 6, 2009 at 5:13 p.m.

    It's long been known that TV stations turn up the volume on commercials (although they won't admit it, not advertisers or their agencies. The stations feel they are doing their advertiser clients a favor, but instead it is alienating and counterproductive. In more than 25 years of TV commercial creation and production, I have never said, nor have I heard a colleague say, "Hey, let's crank up the sound so it's more intrusive."

    Kent Bosworth
    President & CEO,
    The Bosworth Group

  3. Randy s Mitchell from WEB OFFICE, October 6, 2009 at 5:25 p.m.

    There is a serious flaw in the CALM legislation in that it does not address just exactly what is causing the loudness? As the bill is written it will effectively have no effect on lowering the sound because the sound was not turned up to begin with.

    The lower the frequency the greater the power needed to reproduce it. Thus we have sub-woofers - dedicated amplifiers directing power to the lower registers.

    By filtering out the low frequency notes power can now be directed to the rest of the frequency spectrum and viola - a louder sound without turning up the volume.

  4. Marion Guthrie from Gut3Marketing, October 7, 2009 at 10:51 a.m.

    Early in my career, I worked for a TV station in traffic and sales service. Part of the routine when we took on new commercials was to screen them both for visual content and for sound levels. So I'm guessing that this was a self imposed business rule. Funny but it seems that a few bad apples....If companies would all embrace a set of shared ethical standards we wouldn't need government to do it.

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