Everything we do, everywhere we go, and every website we visit, we see advertisements. While we commute to and from work, watch television, and interact with friends on social media, it’s impossible not to wonder just how many advertisements is a person exposed to a day.
Unsurprisingly, as the infographic below shows, we see more ads now than ever before. Keep scrolling to find out exactly how many more.
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How Many Advertisements Is a Person Exposed to a Day?
According to some estimates by the marketing firm Yankelovich, we were exposed to about 500 ads per day in the 1970s. In 2006, they estimated that we were exposed to roughly 5,000. Today, those numbers range from anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000, depending on where you live, your career, and how much time you spend online. For instance, a police officer directing traffic is likely to see less ads than someone who uses the internet all day for work.
Fighting Back Against Ads
To counteract this, the sophistication of ad-blockers has helped many web browsers block a percentage of annoying ads and the rise of streaming, on-demand television services has reduced the number of ads seen on TVs across the world. For example, many broadcast and cable channels average about 15 minutes of commercials per hour. Even with some ads and previews, very few streaming services have similar amounts.
Why Do We See so Many Ads?
As technology and content follows us everywhere we go, and as we use so many more platforms to find news, connect with friends, and search for information, ads have more space to fill than ever before. In the past, ads were forced to be static and produced an indeterminable amount of impressions. These ads were located on:
- Buses and bus stops
- Trains, subways, and stations
- Newspapers and magazines
While they may not be as profitable as they once were, both for the publisher and for the advertiser, these types of ads still exist in large numbers. For instance, on the average New York City Subway, there are at least five ads per car and ten per station. That means if you were at only two stations (one arriving and one departing) at both your morning commute and evening commute, you would see a minimum of 50 ads per day just in the subway, and more if you take another subway connection. And, that’s just on the actual platform. Many stations have long hallways and stairwells where you’ll see anywhere between ten and 50 more ads.
Just the Beginning
However, you start seeing ads well before your commute to work. In fact, it starts right when you wake up. Everything, from the branding and color choices to the tags on your clothes can be considered advertising. As a result, when Ron Marshall didn’t think he saw that many ads in one day, he counted 487 before he’d finished his breakfast and decided to stop the experiment.
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Places Where You See the Most Ads Every Day
Businesses and marketers have strategically placed ads almost everywhere, turning most empty spaces into revenue-generating opportunities, which is why how many advertisements is a person exposed to in a day is so high. However, as the list below shows, there are some places where you’re likely to encounter more ads than others.
Yes, television. Though more and more viewers are switching to streaming services, there are still plenty of ads. Even popular streaming services, such as Netflix, show previews of their shows after you’ve finished watching something, which is an ad. In addition, even though some studies suggest that by 2025, half of viewers under the age of 32 will not pay for subscription TV, even popular on-demand services on cable or live TV show ads, though often less than live TV. Plus, sports and reality television shows, two of the most popular types of live broadcasts because of the competitive nature, usually require audiences to have a TV subscription to cable or other providers. During these shows, there are at least 15 minutes of ads for every hour of viewing and during every break in the action.
Whether you use their app, website, or watch them on TV, news sites such as CNN, Huffington Post, the Weather Channel, and others bombard you with ads to increase their revenue. Some of these ads include:
- Ads on website
- Video ads before online videos play
But it’s not just external ads, which can sometimes be disguised as one of their articles with ‘Sponsored Content’ written in a lighter font next to the title or image. There are also plenty of internal advertising luring you to connect with the company on various social media channels, subscribe to their email list, or to read more content. After all, the more content you read, the longer you’ll be on the site, the more ads you’ll see, and the more the site can charge for advertisers.
One Example of Online Advertising
Recently, on one article (about the prevalence of ads) on a popular news site, there were 43 internal and external ads on the page.
- Number of External Ads: 16
- Follow on Social Media: 4
- Share the article on Social Media: 6
- Subscribe to Email List: 2
- Read Other Articles: 15
- Total Number of Ads on Webpage: 43
While this was only one article on one site, it didn’t seem that different from other popular sites. However, we’ve become so accustomed to these ads that we barely notice them.
Websites and Blogs
Many smaller websites and blogs don’t have nearly as many ads as larger sites such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, and news sites because they don’t have as many visitors. However, you may not always be aware of the ads you’re seeing. For instance, there are many websites that have only a couple hundred or a couple thousand visitors a day that have at least 15 to 20 external and internal ads on many of their pages. Most websites, regardless of size, have:
- Four most common social share buttons
- Connect on the four most common social media platforms
- Subscribe to their email list
That’s nine ads right there, without including any external ads. In addition, these sites usually also have sponsored content, which are articles paid for by other businesses or products, and five or so ads throughout each page. That equals at least 15 without thinking about all of the other advertising opportunities available.
As social media became popular in the mid-2000s, many investors wondered how and when they were going to effectively monetize all of these users into a business plan. They turned to advertising, like so many businesses before them. Now, the average Facebook user sees 36 ads per day and clicks on about 10 of them a month. On Twitter, every seven posts is an ad, as well as sponsored hashtags and sponsored ‘Who to Follow’ options that appear on the right and left margins on desktop.
According to a 2016 study by AAA, the average American spends 17,600 minutes in their car every year. That’s more than 293 hours, or more than 12 whole days. And, according to Statista, there are more than 341,000 billboards across the country to target those captive audiences. In some areas, such as in New Jersey right before the Holland Tunnel, roughly 1.1 million people see a strategically-placed billboard per week, making it an expensive option. However, billboards aren’t the only ads you’re encountering in the car. Whether you’re listening to a podcast, radio, or streaming music service, you’re likely to hear about 10 commercials per hour. And that doesn’t include when the host or DJ says they are coming to you live from the “Money-Generating Studio” or that this hour is brought to you by “So and So Insurance”.
As wireless networks and smartphones have become able to handle the bandwidth and size required to watch online videos, their popularity has skyrocketed. According to Statista, there were more than 536 million unique viewers on the top 10 online platforms in June of 2018. These sites include:
- Google sites
- Microsoft sites
- CBS Interactive
As the number of viewers continues to increase, we’ve all seen more ads on these platforms. Often, you’ll have to watch (though some give you the option to skip) a short ad before you watch a video. And, you’ll almost always have an ad between videos. According to some research, in 2011 there were 4.6 billion video ads shown per month. Since then, that number has only increased with the improvements in accessibility, viewers, and number of videos being published.
Ways to Avoid Seeing So Many Ads
As everyone has noticed the uptick in ads, companies have created ways for you to avoid them, or at least be exposed to ads less frequently. Some of these options are listed below.
Ad blockers are plugins or browser extensions that remove or alter the advertising content on a webpage. In other words, as the webpage is loading, the ad blocker analyzes the script to see if any of the sites and scripts match ones it was designed to block. If there are any, it blocks them. While the specific types of ads that are blocked varies from company to company, most of them whitelist Google Ads by default because they’re seen to be useful. However, some do block tracking codes that provide marketers with information about a visitor’s activity on the site. Others eliminate all advertising on a webpage and replace it with blank spaces and broken links, whereas others replace the ads with something else. In addition, most ad blockers target more annoying types of ads, such as pop-ups and banner ads.
If you’re going to be a part of society, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to avoid ads. They’re everywhere you turn, filling empty spaces around the world. However, the more remote the area, the less likely you’ll be bombarded with ads. For instance, rural areas typically have less billboards, less public transit, and less cabs because there are less people and less needs. In addition, those who live in rural areas have been found to spend less time online, which means they’re encountering less ads there as well. While it may not be the perfect option for everyone, if you’re looking to escape the bombardment of ads you encounter every day, it is one worth trying.
Many services, especially video and music streaming services, offer some type of subscription plan that either eliminates or reduces the number of ads you see or hear. Depending on the service, the monthly fee will vary. In addition, some have tiers or packages based on the number of videos or songs you watch per month. Of course, these subscriptions won’t help you for all of the ads you’re exposed to every day, but they will at least provide you with uninterrupted entertainment.
Are Ads Really That Bad or Just a Fact of Life?
One of the ongoing debates is how effective ads are, regardless of where they are located. Over the last ten years or so, many studies have shown that shorter commercial breaks on radio are more effective for advertisers than longer commercial breaks, as listeners are less likely to change the station and can remember each ad better. This has led some stations to reduce the number of ads per hour and to charge more for those ads. Some websites are trying the same approach to create a better experience for users.
Are Ads That Bad?
There is no doubt that our brains have become accustomed to ads and can block most of them out subconsciously. Otherwise we’d all be paralyzed trying to focus on all the different stimulants. However, advertising is one of the best ways for companies to gain exposure to new demographics, to create brand awareness, and market new products. And, it also allows content producers to generate revenue. How else would radio stations generate revenue?
Finding a Balance
However, finding that balance between too many commercials (aka too much revenue) which may end up driving away listeners, visitors, or viewers. That reduction will lead to reduced advertisers and reduced fees in the long-term. More and more companies are learning that the user should always be the most important part of any content, even ads, and that finding a balance is more important to the long-term success of the company than strictly searching for increased revenue. Many master’s in marketing programs, whether MBAs with a marketing concentration or a Master of Science in marketing, focus on understanding this balance without driving away your audience to maximize revenue.
Interested in Marketing to Consumers?
Are you shocked at the answer to: how many advertisements is a person exposed to a day? Have you always wanted to know how advertising connects psychology with capitalism? Check out graduate programs in marketing and advertising to find the perfect program for you. Interested in earning an MBA with a marketing concentration? Discover the types of MBA specializations and online MBA programs with no GMAT required.
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Disclaimer: This information, and the numbers provided, are estimated based on commuting times, websites visited, activity on social media, where you live, and how many emails you receive per day. Statistics provided about the number of ads on certain platforms and advertising revenue are from studies and research sourced. Infographic Sources: brandwatch.com/blog/47-facebook-statistics/ | businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-google-search-is-still-growing-2012-7 | Expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-a-gigantic-list-of-google-stats-and-facts/ | merchdope.com/youtube-stats/ | Youtube.com/yt/advertise/
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