| January 23, 2017
Recent exposure to live TV over the New Year holiday reminded me that excessive ad exposure is not just an online phenomenon. There is something fundamentally wrong when the same ad airs ten times or more in the space of an hour. Maybe this excessive frequency is a phenomenon of lack of ad inventory or the practicalities of media buying or does it reflect a misplaced belief in the power of repetition?
Hosting a couple of 18 year olds for the weekend led to my first exposure to live TV for a long time. Once they had figured out how to stream the game to my TV screen, we watched the Dallas Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles. It soon became apparent that someone somewhere had not got the message that there is such a thing as too much frequency. There was one specific ad that was shown first in every ad break during the game. The ad itself was pretty innocuous, even vaguely amusing but after the first couple of viewing it began to grate on my nerves, by the tenth exposure I wanted to throw something at the TV. Worse still I was beginning to feel antagonistic toward the brand.
I suspect that this excessive frequency might have been the result of one of those arcane deals that are part of the U.S. media buying scene but, if not, what did the media buyer think they were doing? People have memories. You only need to refresh those memories periodically not ten times an hour. Kantar Millward Brown has found that the brand response to digital advertising does not improve if the ad is exposed more than ten times in 24 hours (and may decline if the initial response to the ad is negative) and I see no reason why it would be any different with TV. If nothing else, I would suggest that this media strategy is a waste of money.
I know that brands and media buyers want to get their ads in front of live audiences, more attention and less skipping and all that (they might think differently if they watched my guests busy on their mobiles during the ad breaks) and sports coverage gets a lot of live viewing. AdAge reports that according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, NFL games claimed 27 of the most-watched TV broadcasts in 2016 and the average NFL game includes 20 commercial breaks containing more than 100 ads. But here is another well-established fact; more clutter, less impact. Kantar Millward Brown has found that there is a negative correlation between ad clutter and ad memorability across countries and demonstrated the same relationship over time within specific countries.
To my mind, the only real way to make sure your ad is going to be watched these days is to have great, compelling creative. How well you reach the audience is important, but without great content your ad budget will be wasted, no matter how many times you show the ad.
Repetition is necessary to ad effectiveness but only if it helps ensure the ideas conveyed by the ad enter long-term memory. I had to confirm with my friends which brand was being advertised during that American football match, and still have no idea what product was being featured. Could that ad still have some effect on my purchasing behavior? Personally I doubt it. If I had not decided to write this blog post, I would probably have forgotten the details of the ad and only been left with an instinctive negative response to the brand.
But what do you think? Why do media buys end up with the same ad multiple times an hour? Do you think it aids effectiveness? Please share your thoughts.