Does Less Exposure to Commercials Translate to Fewer Wants?

Like many other Americans, I stopped watching TV commercials about ten years ago.  Between giving TV up for years on end (college, early grad school) to DVRs to Netflix and Hulu, we were no longer forced to endure traditional TV spot commercials.


Of course advertisers still want eyeballs, so our honeymoon from commercials only lasted a few years.  Advertisers increased their efforts in other areas, most noticeably injecting commercials before and in between online video content.  However, I find this kind of content much easier to ignore than TV commercials.  I can tab over to another page and just listen for the commercial to finish or even mute the program and check back when the commercial is slated to end (don’t you love the countdowns?).


I wonder if advertising has become less effective in terms of drawing people to products with this shift in medium.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been terribly susceptible to advertising since I almost never buy things and we research everything we buy intensively in advance.  I’ve also probably become a bit savvier with age and focus on our finances.


film reelNo longer watching commercials has helped decrease my I-want reflex in one area for sure – seeing movies in the theaters.  Because I don’t watch commercials I literally never know what movies are coming out soon or “in theaters now.”  Not until a movie generates tremendous buzz among my peers does it crack into my awareness, and that’s quite rare.  I think this is all to the good since I’m not tempted to spend tons of money to see mediocre movies in theater, which in my opinion really doesn’t add much to most movie experiences.


Looking back through my records, the last movie we saw in theaters was The Hunger Games, which was totally worth it because Kyle had recently read the books and was really excited about it.  We’ll probably see the sequel in theaters as well since we are currently reading the trilogy aloud to each other (oh, and Ender’s Game, since I’m a HUGE Ender fan and we’ve read that together, too).  We’ve certainly caught other recent releases either at our university or when they come out on Netflix, but that process provides time for the really great movies to be differentiated from all the rest so we can be selective.  The thing about even seeing a movie in the theater is that you’re exposed to even more commercials before it starts, and that does tend to put “Oh, that does look good, we should see that” thoughts in my head that I try to shake away afterwards.


I’m happy that I seem to be able to ignore the newer types of advertising even as they have replaced traditional TV commercials.  I do believe less exposure to advertising makes one “want” less.  I am susceptible to movie trailers so I’m glad to be seeing fewer to none of them because I’m not crazy for the movie theater experience.


Do you watch commercials today?  How immune do you think you are to advertising?  Do you value the movie theater experience enough to pay the high rates?


photo from Free Digital Photos


Written by

Filed under: spending · Tags: , ,

31 Responses to "Does Less Exposure to Commercials Translate to Fewer Wants?"

  1. cashrebel says:

    I try to expose myself less and less advertising, which is why hulu plus isnt an option. Im positive that increased exposure leads to increased desires, at least among the general public. That’s a great way to discover new movies, mediocre movies in the theater are just depressing.
    cashrebel recently posted..The most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah it really sucks to pay so much for an experience that doesn’t WOW you! We try to only see movies in theaters where the huge screen/enormous sound is needed for the best experience (i.e. action movies).

  2. Pauline says:

    I think I am pretty immune but still see the ton of product placements on tv shows, clothes, cars, iAnything… it is more subtle but very much present.
    Pauline recently posted..How to analyze a property as an investment

    1. Emily says:

      I agree and that’s something that you can’t really counter if you still want to watch shows. But once you turn it off you’re free of that as well (except in real life!).

  3. Josh @ CNA says:

    Great post. Personally, I don’t think increased exposure leads to increased wants for me but, I don’t really watch much T.V.! I listen to music online and, I’m just not exposed to many ads. I like it that way though! Thanks for the great post!
    Josh @ CNA recently posted..Welcome To The NEW CNA Finance!

    1. Emily says:

      That’s a great way to get entertainment without ads.

  4. Mrs PoP says:

    The only commercials I really see are on Hulu, but that’s not usually a big deal. I think the most recent one I remember seeing told me to take a each vacation to FL. I was like, “check that IP address, Hulu! I’m already here!”

    I think radio is a big culprit, too which is one perk of listening mainly to NPR. No ads!
    Mrs PoP recently posted..He Said She Said – The Banana Thief!

    1. Emily says:

      I’m also amused when the internet either has surprisingly targeted or surprisingly non-targeted ads.

      I love NPR as well! Except during pledge week. 🙁 Mostly I listen to podcasts, which have virtually no breaks in content.

  5. No Waste says:

    I’ve thought about this before, being a DVR snob as well.

    The only commercials I see are during live sports.

    It’s not surprising that advertisers crave spots during live sporting events, either. They’re the last hope for eyeballs on ads.

    Taking a step back, I’d like to think the answer to your question is YES, but I doubt it, because you know, human nature and all.
    No Waste recently posted..Waste Of The Week

    1. Emily says:

      You know, we actually don’t even watch commercials during live sports much. We watch our university’s basketball games in a group and the hosts always start recording without playing it to give people time to get there and get settled. Then we skip the commercials to eventually catch up to real time. We do have the commercials on at our house because we’re watching over the air!

  6. Interesting topic. I also watch many fewer TV ads in recent years but I wound say it has not changed my desire to consume bright and shiny objects. I think it is because of all of the ads on social media, Facebook in particular, that I still have to watch my spending.
    Kyle | recently posted..I Took Two Girls to Justice and Came Out Alive

    1. Emily says:

      I am fairly blind to online ads as well, actually. That’s why I’m always surprised that money can be made from clicks!

  7. At first I read the title as less exposure to chemicals… lol. But yes, I agree wholeheartedly. Having AdBlock on my browser and not watching a lot of cable TV does cut down on wanting things. But then living in NYC, I’m bombarded by ads all the time, either on the subway cars or stations or on bus stops and phone booths. So sometimes it’s hard to get away!
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..I had a different post…

    1. Emily says:

      It’s strange how different cities handle advertising so differently. Where I grew up there were no billboards whatsoever so when I moved to L.A. I was so shocked that they are EVERYWHERE and tended to be about.. um.. products not appropriate for minors!

  8. 100% agree with the movie point. I never know what movies are coming out unless they’re block busters or perhaps have a favorite actor/director. And I’m pretty into entertainment too. I just can’t justify the cost of a movie unless I’m renting or streaming it online. I also don’t have cable and tend to just mute Hulu during commercials. Apparently Hulu thinks I’m either a sad old lady or old man because I either get ED medication commercials or cat food ones. Neither which apply to me…

    I think the lack of commercials would probably reduce materialism in kids, especially around Christmas or birthdays.
    Broke Millennial recently posted..Frugal Find Friday: Earmark

    1. Emily says:

      Haha, the commercials online can be pretty amusing in their content. I guess you like shows that aren’t really for your demographic? The other thing is that you see the same ads over and over! We tend to start making fun of them once we notice the repeats.

      I think it’s been pretty well documented that kids are not at all cynical about advertising!

  9. I do my best to ignore commercials, but they are everywhere now. Like you, when a commercial is at the start of a video or show, I just do something else for those 15-30 seconds. I like to think that the less of commercials I see keep my spending in check, but advertisers are good and will find a way around this.
    Jon @ MoneySmartGuides recently posted..4 Tips To Save Money On Gas

    1. Emily says:

      I think the ultimate defense against advertising is a well-structured budget. 🙂

  10. I generally place commercials into three categories. The first is for items that I would be interested in learning more about or using once I found out about them. Movie trailers for movies like Ender’s Game or Mortal Instruments fall in that category.
    The second is funny commercials. They are fun to watch but don’t influence me in any way. The third of the rest of commercials. These I just ignore.
    At the end of the day, commercials simply don’t influence me all that much. It will take a lot more than a video to convince me to part with my hard-earned cash.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..WD-40 Lessons on Life and Money

    1. Emily says:

      Haha, I agree with that sentiment!

  11. Matt Becker says:

    I think we’re all influenced by advertising whether we think so or not. Marketers are pretty smart and know how to get things into our heads without us even realizing. With that said, by TV watching has dramatically decreased over the past few years and as a result, like you, my exposure to commercials and therefore to what’s “relevant” in certain parts of our culture has definitely decreased. Like one of the other commenters, the commercials I see are primarily during sports, though even my time spent watching that has seen a huge decrease.
    Matt Becker recently posted..How Great Are Those Investment Returns Really?

    1. Emily says:

      With less TV, there’s certainly less product placement, which I’m sure influences us the most because it’s the most subconscious.

  12. Lucas says:

    If someone spends $X on commercials, they expect to get at least $X back on increased sales, so yeah it definitely impacts your decision making (consciously or not).

    My favorite complete nonsense commercial is Geico. “Save up to 15% or more on car insurance”. It is mathematically impossible to be more vague. You either save 15%. 🙂

    1. Emily says:

      Well, the commercials impact someone’s decision-making – I just think it’s not me! Most of the time, anyway. 🙂

  13. I’m pretty calculated with my spending so I’m pretty immune to commercials. I generally get up and do something else when commercials come on. I have a baby now and I do think that kids are very susceptible to commercials so I’ll probably have to cut out TV while he’s awake (when he gets to the age when he starts saying “I want…”)
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..More Ways to Save

    1. Emily says:

      Ooh, yes, you have to start being careful. Do you have rules about screen time for him yet?

  14. I want to believe I am not heavily influenced by advertising, but I need to remind myself that I am not So Smart. My brain isn’t as logical or impervious as I want to believe, so it’s likely that many of my purchases are entirely the result of persistent and clever advertising. Still, like you, we try to limit the number of ads we see due to having a DVR, flipping the channel, opening a new tab, etc. That probably mitigates the impact.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Confusing Yard Work Experience, Part II

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah I need to remind myself that I’m not So Smart a bit more often! I definitely think limiting exposure helps but you’re right that some of these campaigns just get into our heads.

  15. […] your feelings toward the show will change when you take a break from your TV-watching routine and limit your exposure to advertising.  The worst case scenario here is that you still must watch your show and you add cable back, but […]

  16. […] After three years using these strategies, we are still completely satisfied with the system we’ve worked out – and to think we’ve not-spent about $3,000 in that time!  We are no longer even aware of what we’re missing on cable since we’ve dropped exclusively available shows (or just wait for them) and we don’t watch commercials. […]

  17. […] hopping around online to read new-to-me personal finance blogs, I found this post: Does Less Exposure to Commercials Translate to Fewer Wants? This touches on something I’ve been thinking about ever since our daughter L has reached the […]

Leave a Reply


CommentLuv badge