Often poorly conceived and resembling little more than a dull list of supposed product benefits, they offend the ear and are capable of inducing feelings of tension and anger usually reserved for perfidious clues along the lines of "Stenhousemuir goalkeeper 1925-26 (3,6)". As with the Star crossword, it's often more satisfying just to switch off than persevere.
Yet commercial radio deserves some credit for realising that the average, bordering on poor, standard of creative is an issue and is actually doing something about it. A couple of weeks back, Fru Hazlitt, the managing director of GCap London, expressed her frustrations with the quality of some radio creative and said that it would ask viewers to vote on ads and that "bad" ads could, in theory at least, be pulled.
This might well be democratisation going a bit too far for some advertisers, yet Hazlitt's idea could have some impact in increasing creative standards. And, in an odd way, it's reassuring that Capital's "no more than two ads in a row policy" doesn't appear to have reaped huge dividends - listeners seem happy with longer commercial minutage as long as the content is of higher quality and this complete package is now what Capital is working towards, rather than a relentless focus on scrapping a proportion of commercial airtime.
Radio's sudden wake-up call is one that the TV industry might also have to heed. While there are plenty of stunning TV ads around, and proponents such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty's John Hegarty can talk, rightly, of the medium's power to "get attention, to create fame", there is also a general sense of viewer weariness and fatigue, which is summed up by the critic Charlie Brooker in comparing a proportion of TV advertising to "children's programmes in miniature - not so much talking down to the viewer as placing the viewer in a cot and tickling his chin".
Brooker is not alone in calling for more direct and less patronising commercials, which are nonetheless imaginatively produced. This might have to happen since there are signs that even on the criteria of branding and fame, TV is facing fresh challenges. For certain products (mobile phones, for instance), research exists to show an association with MySpace or YouTube can achieve this and at a fraction of the cost.
There's no need to push the panic button just yet, but the medium should guard against creative complacency or be willing to accept acceleration in revenue decline. Now it's time to finish that crossword with the help of my trusty PC (also useful for listening to radio these days). The £25 prize could come in handy.