Watching TV is often a case of whispers and explosions – the very quiet film followed by the extremely loud advert. But do we still have a problem with excessively loud ads or is it a figment of my imagination?
Advertisements – unless we want to pay a subscription or licence, we’ve got to live with them. But sometimes their presence is so obnoxious that I’m either forced to change the channel or walk out of the room and make a cup of tea until they’re over.
However, there’s something that annoys me more about adverts than any perceived obnoxiousness – their volume. More often than not when I’m watching a film, the following ads will be so loud that the shock creates a visible gap between my bottom and my seat.
Sound level rules tackle loud ads
Last week, France introduced new rules to tackle this very problem. The country will be monitoring the “subjective loudness” of ads, since it’s said that the problem is not that the ads are actually louder than the programmes, but that commercials have been digitally compressed, making them seem more intense.
We’re also pretty lucky in the UK. In 2008 new rules were added to the TV advertising code that ruled ‘advertisements must not be excessively noisy or strident’. And they aimed to directly tackle this “subjective loudness” with the following guideline:
‘Maximum subjective loudness of advertisements must be consistent and in line with the maximum loudness of programmes and junction material.’
But is the code actually working? Are loud ads still out there and, if so, why?
Staying within the volume range
In my view, most advertisers are probably abiding by the sound levels code, but it’s not necessarily resulting in quieter ads. In other words, they’re getting around it.
Broadcasters will use the full range of loudness for their programmes, say from volume one (whispering) all the way up ten (explosions).
This means that they can emphasise big action scenes and create suspense when there’s quiet dialogue. It also means that everyday conversations, which make up most of a programme’s content, will be somewhere in the middle range.
Conversely, advertisers don’t need to worry about this range – all they care about is what volume they can get away with – the full ten. This means that they’re following the code, even though the ads feel much louder than the films or programmes they surround.
The ASA steps in
However, last year the Advertisement Standards Authority (ASA) was forced to step in when complaints about ads broadcast during an episode of Sherlock Holmes on ITV3 said they were too loud. The ASA ruled that eight of the adverts broke the sound levels code.
ITV argued that although much of the audio in Sherlock Holmes was silent, when the characters argued or shouted they were just as loud as the loudest parts of the ads. The ASA countered this by saying that the adverts ‘must not be excessive and must be more consistent with the surrounding programme material’.
So it looks like the ASA is looking at more than just adverts sticking within the one to ten volume range, it has upheld a complaint which said that the ads were not consistent with the volume of the actual programme.
Perhaps my dislike for loud ads is completely outdated? Maybe there isn’t even a problem any more? Or, like me, are you still annoyed by the “subjective” loudness of TV ads?
Do you get annoyed by loud TV adverts?
Yes (98%, 984 Votes)
I don't think TV ads are loud (1%, 12 Votes)
No (1%, 10 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,005