back to article TV ads too loud, industry watchdog says

Television adverts sometimes sound much louder than surrounding programme material because existing rules on sound levels are ambiguous. The rules should change to minimise annoyance to viewers, says an industry watchdog. The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) has launched a consultation on the sound levels of …


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  1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Not just me then...

    Well, I'm glad it's not just me that as soon as an advert break comes up, I scramble madly for the mute button. This is particularly annoying later at night when the sudden burst of static (oops advertising) really does sound considerably louder than the programming.

    Now if they could just find it in them to ban annoying adverts as well... :p

  2. Ian Ferguson

    Adjusting volume

    Too right I need to adjust the volume for ad breaks! Particularly on ITV channels. They are shooting themselves in the foot, as when the first advert comes blaring out painfully loudly, I mute the TV until the end of the ad break; if the level was comparable to the programme, I wouldn't find this necessary.

  3. Mark Rendle

    Yeah, Paramount Comedy

    Surely the worst offenders. Many's the time I've drifted off to sleep with an imported sitcom, only to be blasted awake again at the next commercial break.

  4. Paul

    I have just

    got a new TV (well new for me) after having the same TV for 18 years. The new TV has this new fangled stereo business and plenty of options for how this should sound.

    Invariably, the adverts are noisier, although I notice some programme titles are far noisier, especially the "sponsored by" bits, which are often deafening compared to the programmes themselves.

    Less than fascinatingly, fictional fan of cleaning products, Cillit Bang's own shouty evangelist Barry Scott, is fairly quiet in comparison to a lot of other ads. Perhaps when I was watching my old TV, I imagined his slightly weak bellowing was louder than it actually is. Anyway, it just goes to show.

  5. Alexander Hanff

    About fucking time

    We have a 17 month old child and I have written several complaints to Sky about the excessive loudness of adverts. It has got to the point now where instead of watching something live we record things on our Sky+ box and then watch them so we can fast forward through the commercials to avoid them and their excessive volume.

    Of course on my MythTV box it is even easier because it has commercial flagging and will even remove commercials from recordings if I want it to.

  6. Mike Quinn

    Noisey adverts mean lost audiance

    Noisy adverts may seem like a good way to get the audiances attention but what typically happens in many households is that the mute button is hit when the adverts/sponsorship/broadcasters logo apears and sound is resumed when the TV programme returns to the screen.

    Advertisers and programme sponsors alike have missed out on huge audiances for the past few years as viewers such as myself avoid the noisy extra bass levels by hitting the mute rather than annoy neighbours, for example I know a car company has driven a car all over the globe in the breaks that surround the programme 24 on Sky but I know not why or for that matter who the manufacturer is.

    The issue for advertisers is with so many viewers like myself now automatically muting the TV for ad breaks how do they regain our trust and our attention?

  7. Mark

    Not just adverts though

    It's not just the adverts that are too loud, something should be done about the relative volume of special effects or music compared to the dialogue.

    In some programs the conversations are so quiet that you have to turn the volume up to hear what's being said then for an action sequence to cut in and blast your eardurms whilst you scramble for the remote to turn the volume down.

    Adverts are a breeze compared to the programs as you know when they are coming and can be ready with the mute button.

  8. Jon Double Nice

    TV on demand!

    I like this, no more adverts - woo!

    A newer tactic I have noticed is the usage of reverb, which is then also compressed, sitting behind the vocal track, it really increases the perceived loudness.

    Asides from which, every advert on TV seems to be for shampoo aimed at people who dye their hair (which I do not) or for some kind of new advancement in baby dung-hamper technology facilitating far improved sleep or movement for the ghastly little noise engines.

  9. Andrew Kay

    Even Better..

    I propose someone invents a TV set which picks up the start of ad breaks and replaces the annoying drivel with a nice animated fish-tank, mountain view or other such screensaver.

    Failing that, yeah turn that crap down please!

  10. Alan Davies


    I always thought it was because of NICAM and not having a digital TVsignal.

  11. Karl Lattimer

    RE: Yeah, Paramount Comedy

    I've sent numerous complaints to Paramount Comedy for the excessive loudness of their adverts. A dB for those who don't know is a decibel characterised by the smallest change in volume which is apparent to the human ear. When you're going from a cosy 8dB show to a 16dB advert, that is an exponential increase similar to that of 8bits 256 dec, to 16bits, 65,536 dec however the effect is more pronounced with sound.

    This has been referred to in some quarters as the TV shouting at you while you're in the kitchen making a cup of tea.

    I stopped watching ITV about 5 years ago, nothing to see here, move along... ahh channel 4.

    Its time this was properly regulated, I don't want Cilit bang being screeched at me every time the adverts come on. and while we're at it, how about having all of the channels with slightly offset ad breaks so I can channel surf properly, instead of hitting 300 channels with adverts on at the same time.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too much is often less

    I don't watch TV, so wasn't aware that TV suffers exactly the same problems as web pages.

    Clearly, advertisers need to understand that by making an advertisement of any nature excessively obtrusive the likely result is that the advert will be blanked.

    Once, web page adverts were static images in reasonable proportion to the content. If they were well designed and relevant to the content, they might have been read and might even have resulted in a purchase.

    Progessively they started using animated images, but that was reasonably acceptable because browsers had the option to disable animation. A well designed advert would nevertheless ensure the first frame got the message over.

    Now, they tend to use flash -- a technique that completely shoots the advertiser in the foot, because it distracts unreasonably from the page content. The result is that people browse with flash turned off, and not see the adverts at all.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Broadcast crap anyway

    I have just stopped watching broadcast TV, except for the few remaining BBC shows I enjoy. Everything else I can get from itunes or 4od or whatever. After forking out for a big LCD I dont want to sit and stare at the noise anyway. Far easier to pay a few more pence to download the file and watch it in higher quality glory on the bigscreen without all the other nonsense

  14. Dax Farrer


    Do we have ads on the telly anymore. How quaint.

  15. Lee Staniforth

    Hard Disk Recorder

    I no longer suffer from this, as I use a hard disk recorder, which includes a handy 'skip adverts' button.

    (I know this isn't a long-term viable solution due to advertisers paying for the programes on the commercial channels)

  16. Hedley Phillips

    ABOUT TIME (he shouted)

    I remember when the question of loud adverts was put to an advertiser a few years ago and they bleated that their adverts were not any louder than the tv programmes but that they used techniques to enhance the sound. Yeah, like higher volume!

    Whatever their excuse, I like many millions of people hit the mute as soon as the programme stops for our advert break. I can't stand people shouting at me about things I should buy.

    We to are going down the pvr route so we can cut out the adverts.

  17. Greg Nelson

    BBC In Canada Rocks Everything

    I agree the noise level of commercials is disruptive but, for me, in Vancouver, Canada on Shaw cable the biggest culprit is the BBC.

    I try to scan CBC, BBC and CNN news programs at least once a day. The BBC has a deep, booming bottom that has brought quires from my upstairs neighbour. I can easily cope with the commercials but by the time I've washed out the bottom end on the BBC I've lost some of the dialogue. It's all the more annoying because to effectively solve the problem I have to physically manipulate the volume on the bass speaker.

  18. Lloyd


    I had to chuckle when I read the comments about Paramount comedy, every time we're watching it and don't get to the remote quick enough to mute the ads my missus turns into a swearing demon. The utter filth and profanity that comes out of that womans mouth regarding Paramouth would make the Royal Marine corps blush.

    P.S. Barry Scott is the God of housecleaning products.

  19. MattW

    That's Barry Scott out a job then....

    What'll Cillit Bang do now?

  20. Ross Fleming Silver badge

    Coinciding ad breaks

    Karl's comment about coinciding ad breaks is a valid one. However broadcasters are never going to be daft enough to move away from that approach - they know people are going to channel surf at the adverts and don't want people to find a "new" programme and therefore potentially not flick back, so they time them all together.

    Volume issues have been around for a while, in fact doesn't one of the tvs on review at reghardware have a feature that dynamically ajusts volume to match the programme to the adverts?

    Of course, it doesn't address the real "volume" issue - the volume (number) of adverts and breaks crammed in. Sky are the worst offenders, stretching a 40-45 minute episode to 60 minutes (West Wing, 24, Lost, Star Trek) - but to be fair I think this is an inherited problem from the American shows. Still rather annoying to know that 25% of the hour will be adverts at an increased sound level!

  21. Nev Silver badge

    Yet another reason for ditching commercial TV

    I prefer to watch US imports on iTunes than have to deal with ear splitting ad breaks on Sky and ITV.

    The writing will be on the wall for ad people: once makers of TV shows realise they can cut out the middle men and sell directly to the consumer....

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mute works for me

    "TV suffers exactly the same problems as web pages"

    Indeed, much like this website even. Obviously there's a need for advertising revenue, but video adverts and ones that flash over what you're trying to read etc are just as annoying as TV, especially if they're for bloody Range Rovers (Reuters). I've noticed however that sometimes you can zoom right in on the corner of these ads (on this site), so you don't actually see it. Helps greatly when you're trying to read an article without something flashing away beside it.

    On the TV subject though, I've long since been used to hitting mute. I'm always appalled at friends who DON'T hit the mute button/leave it at the excessive volume etc. There's also a volume balancing function on my TV so that helps I think.

    Also, to quote the great Mr Hicks, "Anyone who works in marketing or advertising, please kill yourself"

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Habitual muter

    I have developed the habit of muting ad breaks altogether now, regardless of boosted volume. I don't need to hear BARRY SCOTT BELLOWING ABOUT HIS NEW CLEANING POWER, or the same thirty-second chunk of music a particular advertiser has chosen to repeat in every single break for two months (I can barely stand to hear "What a Wonderful World" any more, among many other once-beloved pieces of music devalued by grating repetition).

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the british way...

    If it annoys somebody - anybody - regulate it. I'm particularly boggled by the poster who seems to advocate regulating differentials between dialog and explosions in movies - as if explosions should be soothing to the ear.

    I'm looking forward to peeking in on Britain in fifteen or twenty years, when you all just sit in a big tub of non-offensive grey goop, set to a medium temperature with a medium volume and a medium consistency, and have medium conversations while being recorded by medium-fidelity government video equipment.

    Used to be 'stiff upper lip' meant 'tough under duress' - I'm beginning to think that these days it just means 'dead'.

  25. A J Stiles

    I noticed this

    I noticed this when I first had cable TV installed (I think the audio AGC on my old set was a bit aggressive and compressed the sound on analogue broadcasts). I noticed much more dynamic range when watching even the terrestrial channels via cable -- but the adverts were definitely louder.

    It seems -- to my ears; I haven't performed any scientific tests -- that the full dynamic range is used for the programmes' audio, but most of the advertisements are compressed.

    Ever since the buffoon with the balloon spat his dummy out and dropped the yellow cartoon family, I have been forced to switch to satellite -- which actually works out cheaper, even with the full package including the sports and movie channels (and I'm no longer being forced to pay for a redundant extra phone line). I also opted for the Sky Plus box to replace my DVD recorder, which was becoming unreliable.

    Sky Plus has changed the way I watch TV altogether! The ability to skip advert breaks on recordings (whether sheduled via the Planner or ad-hoc live rewinds) makes it all watchable again.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't have it both ways.

    No point advertisers crying their eyes out that no-one wants to watch their work, preferring to skip them on a PVR, if they're only going to shout and berate the few viewers they have left.

  27. Mike F

    Has anyone...

    Has anyone every bought something or though "ooh lets go buy macdonalds becasue they sell organic plastic chicken nuggets?" from watching an advert! I feel most adverts are just white noise in the background of the media world.

    Oh dont get me started on the adverts on the start's of DVD's either....

  28. Tyson Boellstorff

    I think it's a sad statement on commercial creativity.

    If there ever was such a thing. You hire an ad agency to get people's attention, not p*ss them off. There is a fine line between getting attention with your soap commercial, and just being an ass. Good commercials can get your attention and charge your imagination.

    What next? Olympic logos that cost in the millions that appear to depict strange sex acts between cartoon characters? I don't suppose they'll ever stoop that low. You have to wonder about the mental health of such people and the people that hire their services.

    If there's anybody that deserves ridicule over this, it's the pinheads that hire an ad agency and don't demand any sort of quality whatsoever. After all, for some 50,000,000, you'd think that women would be swooning over something that looks like it was designed by professionals, instead of something that came straight off the bathroom wall of the juvenile lockup, or adverts that automatically are muted or skipped.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Turning to online downloading

    It's no wonder I and many other people are acquiring their tv shows from online sources, apart from the convenience of being able to watch the show when you want (and often before it's available in your country, plus some shows *never* reach your country), there's no adverts.

    I rarely watch regular tv because most of it is crap and when there is something good on I have to contend with keeping an eye on the time so I don't miss it (not so when you download the show) and have my intelligence insulted and eardrums bashed by the adverts unless I'm ready on the mute button.

    Don't the advertising companies realise the louder they shout the more people will ignore them?

  30. Lee Dowling

    Hit 'em where it hurts

    Ever since I became aware of this practice (which only seems to have creeped in within the past few years... I don't remember having this problem pre-Sky Digital), I have devised my own solution. It's called the mute button. Yes, it is intensively manual and entirely impractical.

    The thinking behind the loud adverts, however, is along the lines that you will have gone out of the kitchen to make a cup of tea, so the advert needs to be louder for you to hear it (alongside the usual "louder means you'll take more notice"). Hence, muting all adverts entirely (which I have now developed into an unconcious habit) removes any and all advertising revenue that they would otherwise have had. I keep a "dip-into" book on the armchair just for advert breaks. It's also a great time to check email.

    And without the distraction of noisy adverts, I can actually do those things. When the adverts were audible, I wouldn't do that, I would just leave them on and end up unconsciously tapping their theme tune, or finishing their slogans.

    I've also complained to a couple of particular channels but you never get anything useful come back. It's nice to see someone actually doing something, though. Pity it took so bloody long.

    Oh, and thank you UK Gold for giving me a clear signal of when programming is going to resume to normal for me to un-mute (the big "splashscreens" just after the adverts finish), but if you don't stop talking over the first 30 seconds of my favourite programs, I may have to resort to just playing my DVD archive copies of them instead! (which, incidentally, I have made copies of in order to remove all the prohibitions on what trailers/splashscreens I can skip or not... another "brilliant" advertising strategy that has more-than-backfired!).

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  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ads on subscription channels

    It's not just the volume that makes the ads unwatchable but the length and sheer quantity of the ad breaks, which seem to mostly feature witless sales patter for all manner of lowbrow crap such as ambulance-chasers and expensive loans for unreliable borrowers. But my main gripe is, why am I being spammed to death on channels for which I have to pay a hefty subscription fee? Since I've long since given up trying to watch programmes interactively, I may as well just buy the DVDs instead. It's probably cheaper and more convenient, and certainly a lot less annoying.

  34. john Durrant


    presumably "difficult to interpret" translates as "how far can we stretch the rules"

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