/ Technology

Are LOUD TV ADS still a problem?

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

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Mark says:
4 January 2013

Kevin, let us know if you hear back. Maybe we should post contact details of channel complaint departments and start mailing them,
I noticed that today too on More4, volume advert-to-advert varied wildly then there was a preview of a show which I had to turn up the sound again followed by an advert in which the volume shot up again so again volume switching on the remote..

Yes recording the show is an option, or pausing at the start then fast forwarding but often I want to watch a show right now as it’s broadcast then it’s hard to manage.

I also detest the backgroung noise/music in all programmes, it is drowning out the voices to the extent one cannot hear what is being said. Is it because the sound recordist is a young person who doesn’t know better ?

P Foster says:
2 April 2020

ITV2 Adverts are way too loud. Tonight I’m so fed up having to grab the remote to turn the volumn down as quickly as possible on every single advert break every few minutes, (before my neighbours complain ),and back up again when the programme resumes. It is infuriating and not acceptable. I thought there was legislation that covered this subject so that we do not have to keep lowering volume on adverts.

john rivans says:
22 June 2020

G tec who sell the green hoovers latest advert is really anti socially lowed drumming noise and everytime it comes on i have to turn the tv volume down or the neghbours start knocking on the door some one should start finning people how the heck do they get away with it .

Sharon Christmas says:
16 January 2021

So fed up of having to turn up the sound on the film then having an issue collision of sound with the onset of the music and then the adverts. Why can’t the sound stay at a level bearable. It so spoils the enjoyment. 😭😭

Stanley says:
31 January 2021

the loud adverts are getting louder and having the opposite effect on the public, instead of watch the advert i now either switch to a BBC channel or leave the room so I can not hear it.

When we switch channels to avoid the adverts we invariably find ourselves in another commercial break or, if it’s to the BBC, a programme that’s even worse!

Years on dear ASA
4HD, 2022Jan29 22:00, appallingly loud adverts while watching Gemini Man, that what are the authorities/corporations doing about it – seems like zip, how does one escalate this?
I’m sure the ASA must have some employees watching and if they’ve not noticed/turned a blind eye, or a deaf pair of ears one must question the integrgrity of ASA and its staff?

Thomas Randall says:
3 April 2022

Yes, ITV advert volume can be up to 20dB louder than the accompanying programs . This is surely breaking the rules.

Crusader says:
4 April 2022

Why not just do what I always do, and always keep the remote control nearby and make sure you know where the mute button is and always hit it the instant the ads start, and I even switch over to the epg as well and minimise the picture and have done for years as the ads are SO infuriating as they always show hoards of spoilt rotten, pampered sick born free easy-lifers absolutely revelling and gluttonously FAT-gloating etc. And there’s not only the excessive volume to worry about, ever since 1990 far too many adverts both on tv and radio have also featured someone absolutely insanely clicking their fingers and/or shrieking “whistling”, both of which are absolute TORTURE for some of us and I’m absolutely SICK and TIRED of such appalling hyper-maniacal noises being so insanely fashionable with far too many of the totally unaffected normal crowd. And some bus operators even play radio on their buses making them totally unusable and seriously breaching the so-called “equality” act, and it’s the same in some bus stations too where they play excruciating radio and if I try complaining to the supervisor they just start robotically repeating that there’s supposedly “no exclusion” and won’t be told, they’re nothing but closed-minded ignorant jobsworths who couldn’t care less, and I bet it’s just the same with audible advertising too, absolutely outrageous! And it’s also just the same with an ever increasing number of phone lines where they put you on hold and then start playing some absolutely APPALLING noise so bad you’ve absolutely no choice but to slam down the phone instantly as it’s totally IMpossible to listen to, and again of course if you complain you just get totally ignored which I furiously resent.

This is something I have never encountered and was surprised when it appeared as a topic. Does the problem exist on all TV platforms (Sky, Broadband Services & Freeview etc?).

We watch TV via Freeview and after reading the comments I decided to check whether there was any difference in volume during the Ad’s, but from what I could tell, the volume remained consistent.

Leaves me wondering why we don’t encounter this problem, yet others do?

I have not found this problem on neither Freeview nor Freesat. I don’t have, nor feel the need for, any subscription tv services.

On a related topic I wish there were more control over the volume of background music in programmes that rely on speech, whether drama or documentaries. It can make the speech difficult to hear and understand. Why much background music is necessary anyway is a question of its own.

Malcolm r, most modern TV’s allow for good adjustment of the sound settings, usually with a range of preset option such as MOVIE, DRAMA, MUSIC, SPEECH etc or the equalizer can be adjusted manually to suit.

If you find the background music is overriding the speech, you could select a different sound option or adjust the equalizer manually to emphasise the speech. I have a good selection of presets on my TV and although I don’t usually find it necessary to make any adjustments, I have on occasions made an adjustment when watching a movie, selecting the SPEECH preset and this successfully reduces the background music and enhances the speech.

If you have these sound adjustment options on your TV, it might be worth a try.

Thanks Wingman, I’ll take a look. It is, to be fair, only a very occasional issue.

As I said earlier in this Conversation – more than ten years ago – I rarely watch commercial TV. If I do I mute the sound or record the programme and skip through the ads.

It is a quite a while since I noticed loud adverts, just annoying ones but you do have to be careful with a pause button as it can become ingrained onto your TV screen. Our new Panasonic has a very useful screensaver button on the remote that gets frequent use.

I agree with Wingman on TV sound. Recently we were watching something and the speech really grated, but adjusting the equalizer improved it immensely.

Crusader says:
4 April 2022

Back in the days of the old VHS and good old analogue TV there used to be a device known as an “adzapper” which supposedly could be used to make a VCR automatically pause when adverts started so they didn’t get recorded, but apparently they were illegal here in the UK. I don’t know if any such device is available now, or even legal, with digital TV and hard drive recorders etc. and I don’t know how such a device would work. And back in the days when I had VHS I used to always manually pause the machine when adverts started if I ever recorded anything that I was watching, which I often did. But of course you can’t do that if you’re watching one programme while recording another.