Twenty THOUSAND?! Really?!

Filed under: @ 9:02 am

Listening to one of the articles in yesterday’s Morning Edition I was struck by the comment that the average American is exposed to 20,000 advertisements per week.

(No, I don’t really remember the context of the quote, it was early and I was still only half conscious, but that makes no difference in the current conversation.)

Of course it made us think. Andrew and I are, or maybe we just like to think we are, far less avid consumers of commercial media than the average American and we were trying to tally up what we’re exposed to per day. Which was, of course, fruitless because it was early in the morning and neither of us are really at the top of our game when we’re sitting in the hot tub listening to the radio and passing jetliners.

But on my way to work yesterday morning I spent a lot of time looking far more carefully at my surroundings than I usually do. And I started to wonder how much what I see each day does, and will, affect where I spend my money.
We’re hoping to be able to replace the flooring in our upstairs this year. Will I automatically consider looking at the flooring at Great Floors because I drive past their reader board every day on my way to work?
When I’m jonesing for caffeine later today will I automatically reach for Starbucks because there are at least seven of them on my way to work? (Actually probably I will, but I’m not sure whether that’s because I have a Starbucks card with some money on it, whether by making a Starbucks run I automatically get away from the godforsaken phone on my desk for a few minutes, or whether I’m hopelessly addicted to iced chai lattes. Probably has nothing to do with their advertising.)
Does the fact that I see a UPS truck four days out of five make me want to consider UPS for all my shipping needs?

So, a survey.
1) What constitutes ‘advertisement’? Is the UPS symbol on the sides of their trucks enough to count or should I only count reader boards, billboards, print, television, and radio ads? What about print ads on trucks?

2) If you, as we do, watch most of your television on a DVR and can thus skip the ads…. do those ads count? What about if you’re watching the show live and you have to sit through the commercials but you mute the sound?

3) Whaddya’ think? Twenty thousand? Really? Or is blazing past a billboard on the highway at 65 mph “exposure” in the same way that Alice in Wonderland can be classified as “science fiction” simply because, as a fantasy story, it falls into the broad classification of “science fiction” because it’s not straight fiction?

I’ll be interested to try and get an average count for us and for those of us who aren’t “Average Americans”.

2 Responses to “Twenty THOUSAND?! Really?!”

  1. fisherbear Says:

    20,000? That’s, what, 55 ads per day? I’d guess that that’s low.

    Do you count banner ads? If so… a lot of the popular entertainment web sites have multiple ads per page, and are designed so that people refresh the page / click on another page several times per minute. At that rate, you get your daily dose of 55 ads in a couple of minutes. (Thus the market for ad blockers.)

    If you drive, a mile of commercial real estate can easily have a couple hundred businesses (unless you’re driving past car dealers.) Figure that at least a quarter of them want passers-by to know that they are there, and 30 mph works out to an advertisement every couple of seconds (about the same as commercial web browsing, come to think of it.) If the coffee shop is more than a minute away, you can hit your daily limit before the round trip is over.

    Ad-supported newspapers and magazines? Scads of ads, especially if you’re just flipping through.

    Radio and TV are ad-free zones by comparison… they’re about an ad per minute. For most people, I would guess that the difference between skipping ads on the DVR and letting things play would get lost in the rounding errors from other ad sources. Still, watch an hour of TV and you’re done.

    So… yeah. Unless you stick to books and PBS, stay home, and stay off the internet, 20,000 ads a year is way too low.

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    You misread the post: that number was 20,000 ads per week. Which comes to 2,857 ads per day, 119 ads per hour, and almost 2 ads per minute. 😯

    Thank the Deus ex Machina for Adblock, Privoxy and Beef Taco.

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