catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 2 :: 2003.01.17 — 2003.01.30


So what?

Good News?

I’ve got some great news for you this year, folks. A 30-second Superbowl ad this year costs, on average, 2 million dollars, which is down from 2.2 million in 2000. (1) So if you couldn’t afford it two years ago, I hope you snatched one up at this year’s bargain price!

The Ad-man’s Everyman

In honor of this national holiday, we’re going to look at who the advertisers and media moguls think you are. I’d like to call it “the Ad-man’s Everyman.” My product today—and I’m practically giving it away, you can’t beat my price—my featured item is THE AVERAGE AMERICAN.

First, I’d like to present:

The Average American Child

The average American child watches 25 hours of television every week. (2) The average American child views between 20,000 and 40,000 ads each year. One source estimates that 2,000 of these ads are for beer or wine. (3)

Hmmm. Now, let’s take a look at:

The Average American Family

Half of American families eat together every night and 68% eat together most nights. (4) Well, that seems like good news. However, 40% of families always or often have the TV on during meals. (2) Kind of minimizes the, “How was your day?” talk. But what about:

The Average American Adult

40% of adults and 70% of teen-agers say they spend too much time watching TV. (5) But what’s too much? Well? “On average, individuals in the industrialized world devote three hours a day to the pursuit [of watching television]—fully half of their leisure time, and more than on any single activity save work and sleep. At this rate, someone who lives to 75 would spend nine years in front of the tube.” (5)

And because about 8 minutes of a half-hour sitcom is commercials, if we’re going to look at the average American TV viewer, we have to take into account:

The Average American Consumer

Four hours of television programming contains about 100 ads. (6) So if we do the math, we realize that this means the average American will view 246,375 television commercials in a lifetime. Assuming these are 30-second commercials and not half-hour infomercials for the JuiceMan Juicer, that means we will have spent 2,053 hours or three full months watching advertisements—and these are only ads on television. The New York Times estimates that the average American is exposed to 3,500 ads each day. (7)

This means a person who lives to be 75 will have been exposed to 95,812,500 ads from birth to death. Wow.

The Reality of Advertising

These numbers are pretty shocking, but do they really mean anything? Perhaps our media and advertising exposure, while great in quantity, has little to do with our actual thoughts and decisions.

Well, that’s not really the case when we compare the U.S. to the rest of the world. The affluent West—20% of the world’s population—consumes 80% of all the world’s natural resources. The average North American consumes 5 times more than a Mexican, 10 times more than a Chinese person, and 30 times more than a person in India. (8)

Perhaps even more sobering is the effect that advertising has on children. Brand loyalty can be established in children as early as age 2. (9) And if that’s not bad enough, 31% of 9-year-olds think they are too fat, while 81% of 10-year-olds diet. (10)

A Correlation?

Now here’s a group of seemingly unrelated statistics, but they’re pretty interesting in light of what we’ve learned during this commercial.

A 2000 Gallup Poll found that 41% of Americans rarely or never read the Bible. That’s up from 26% less than two years earlier. (11) Among Bible readers, the average amount of time spent reading the Bible during an entire week is 52 minutes. (12) Less than an hour reading the Bible—and that’s just among people who read the Bible at all. Compare that to watching an average of 20 hours of television a week.

So what?

So what do we do with all of this information? Does my commercial merely have the same weight in your mind as an ad for Old Navy or Pepsi? Or is there some connection between faith and the way we perceive media and advertising? Is there some action we need to take as a result of the information we absorb?

You know what? On second thought, I don’t want you to buy into the Average American after all. Average is unacceptable. Invest in yourselves instead.



  1. “Recession Or Not, Million-Dollar Superbowl Ads Abound” by Monty Phan.
  2. National Survey of Family Media Habits, Knowledge, and Attitudes.
  3. Pediatric magazine and “Enough!” by Jim Motvalli and published in E Magazine.
  4. “Survey says family ties are strong” by Bill Kirby.
  5. Gallup polls cited in “Television addiction is no mere metaphor” by Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
  6. Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999.
  7. Cited by Target Earth
  8. “Celebrate Buy Nothing Day” in Adbusters magazine, Autumn 1997.
  9. “Tapping the three kids’ market”by James McNeal
  10. Cited in a 1997 study from Children Now.
  11. Gallup Poll conducted by the Gallup Organization and Christianity Today magazine.
  12. Poll conducted by the Barna Research Group


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