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Do we really see 5,000 ad messages everyday?

I’ve seen it published as fact dozens of times, used it myself in numerous lectures and classes, but where did this factoid come from? ? Who did the research to determine that the “average American is exposed to 5,000 ad messages (or more) each day?”

Apparently the number came from a 1990’s vintage Yankelovich study, and the purpose of that study was not to measure advertising clutter but rather consumer attitudes toward advertising. It’s unclear how the authors came up with the high number. The Journal of Advertising Research put out a number in 1998 closer to 500-1000 messages per day, and other studies have pegged exposure at somewhere around 1,000 per day.

Ilya Vedrashko on Hill Holiday’s blog provides a great overview of varied sources and responses. It is a good reminder that sourcing the origin of facts — even well-accepted ones — is always a good thing to do.