Waking Up to the Neverending Clutches of Advertising

I hope I’m not giving Management students a bad name by never blogging, but I swear, it’s only because I want to only blog when I have something brilliant (or hilarious) to share. As a marketing student, I am very interested in advertising campaigns, and consider myself to be very media-savvy. Right now I’m reading Terry O’Reilly’s book,¬† The Age of Persuasion on how “marketing ate our culture.” So far, I’m loving it. In the first chapter (aptly titled “clutter”), Terry talks about how while we know we are overexposed to advertising and marketing, there is no limit to how many new ways marketers will look to promote their brand or product to customers. Terry also talked about how there is no real way to know how many ads a person encounters during a day as the ranges provided are so broad (he quotes 300-15,000) Being the brilliant student I am, I decided to conduct my own experiment and test my own exposure.¬†Truth be told, if you get the free, customizable social media calendar template, it will save you hours of work.

Yesterday, I set out to test how many ads, brands, and impressions I could register in a day. Starting right from the moment when I woke up, I tracked everything as I made breakfast and got ready to go to school. I wish I had set an estimate before I started counting, but I didn’t think fast enough. Any guesses for how many impressions I hit before I had even left my house???



My mind was blown. Then I had to get myself to school. I would decide to test advertising ideas a few days after a provincial election was called, so there are campaign signs everywhere. I passed 22 on my way to school (fun fact: I think the 22 signs were between two parties, but I was so busy counting and driving, I couldn’t say for sure. Campaign saturation already? I think so!). Between election signs, real estate signs, bench ads, bus shelters, car stickers, radio ads, and store signs, I hit 94 additional ads during the 5 minute drive to school. I found myself very stressed while driving trying to consciously count all the ads I encountered, while still remembering to follow the rules of the road (distracted driving, anyone?).

The drive to school brought my total ad impressions to 242 before 8:30 in the morning. Holy crap! Once I got to school, I settled in to do some study all morning and decided to do hourly tracking of the ads I encountered. Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and the general internet added so many impressions to my count. The worst offender? YOUTUBE. One thing I found particularly interesting was that early on, I found myself avoiding Facebook and Youtube just because I didn’t want to count any more ads. Because I was also counting every time someone walked by me with an identifiable logo, I wasn’t getting much studying done, but lots of data collection was happening!

The noon total? 323. And that is not a perfect number by any chance. I decided to count an impression only once, unless it was presented in a fresh way. (Ex: I only counted my Tim’s cup once. Until a second coffee miraculously found it’s way to me, I didn’t count the Tim’s logo again, or I would have been counting every time I look at the same cup.) Also, as I mentioned with Facebook and Youtube, I was actively avoiding ads by playing iTunes instead. I was also trying to not look at people as they walked by, because every time I did I had something new to count. A perfect study this was not.

Lunch was brutal for me. Hitting the SU food court – there are ads everywhere!!! Lunch total: 123 ads in less than 40 minutes while sitting in one spot and just looking around.

The crazy amount of numbers luckily slowed down in the afternoon because I had the good sense to sit in a less busy area. I continued my count until 10:30, when I called it a night and allowed myself to give into the unending pool of internet and physical ads.

From waking up to calling it a day, total ads encountered: 791

So… What’s the point? What did I learn? What do I plan to do with my data?

I’m actually not too sure, but I definitely find the data interesting. Overwhelmingly, I can say there are too many ads everywhere! Everything blurred together, and it would really make me reconsider my advertising plans as someone in the industry. Can you imagine how high the number would be if I listened to the radio all day? Or if I took public transit? Or if I lived in a more populated city? Total madness.

By far the strangest ad/logo I found was on my contact lenses. That struck me as very odd. I also really think ads in the washroom stalls are preying on the innocent, ha ha. You can’t get away!

If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them. I encourage you to give this experiment a try! Even if you don’t do it for the entire day, it would be interesting to compare numbers, and like I mentioned above, I tracked every hour of the day.

I’m going to ponder this experiment for a little longer, and I’m gonna finish O’Reilly’s book. Expect a follow-up post sometime soon.

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