Many marketers ask the question, ‘when does my ad wear out’? Well, when it comes to television, the truth is that most ads wear out in marketing offices long before they wear out in the consumer’s mind.
Each year when objectives are set, existing ads should be evaluated against the new objectives. If these haven’t changed much, the existing ad should be able to be used again, saving time and costs. Marketers should only consider creating a new ad if objectives have shifted or the ad no longer fulfils those objectives.
Millward Brown shows that brand building ads very rarely have wear out. In fact, when testing the engagement, awareness, message and attitudes over a period of time, little to no declines were seen in the ads’ effects. What tends to happen is that over a period of time, an ad will reach its maximum impact on the audience. After that, however, the ad does not need to be changed; but rather flighted less frequently to act as reminder and to re-create the impact.
It is at this stage that a brand can move into a continuous maintenance strategy. This type of strategy maximises the return on the production of the ad. Over-flighting an ad in a short period can have several negative impacts for a brand. Firstly, an advertiser could reach the point of diminishing returns so that the media weight won’t work as hard as it should.
Secondly, excess flighting could irritate consumers. Rather than changing the creative, an advertiser could revisit the media strategy. It is also better to extend air time on a campaign rather than throwing an entire budget into a single burst.
This is not to say that wear out of ads never happen. There are situations where it does. For instance, forgive me for stating the obvious, but if a campaign has a time limited offer the ad will wear out once the offer is no longer valid. This would be applicable for competitions or retails ads. There are also several other situations when wear out plays a role.
If the objective is a call-to-action or a response, Millward Brown shows that the maximum response that an advertiser will receive, will cap in roughly the same period that it takes to establish the ad (1 200 ARs). After this period the ad may continue to build the brand and act as a reminder but very little response will be evident. So if the objective is to ask consumers to engage with the brand, don’t plan on using the same ad for too long.
The next situation when wear out will occur is if the ad has been developed in order to announce new information. As with the brand response, those that care about the news will take it on board and react if they find it relevant to them. Those that don’t are unlikely to notice it at a later stage. And, let’s be honest, information doesn’t stay new forever.
Millward Brown explains that humour can increase the likability, enjoyment and memorability of an ad. These can all assist the brand to build awareness (as long as the humour doesn’t detract from the brand itself or the brand message); however it can reduce the life span of an ad. Humour based advertising can get old pretty quickly once the suspense of the story is no longer a factor. In these cases, a shorter period of flighting should be planned before new copy is created.
Also, an ad might lose relevance if the creative is based on a current trend or fad that may not be around for a very long period of time. Fads that could affect relevance could include songs, behaviours or settings. For example, last year’s favourite song as an ad’s soundtrack won’t get the same reaction this year as it did last year.
Brand ads tend to require large budgets to produce, so to ensure that this spend gets the maximum value, marketers should keep in mind that ads with longevity in creative relevance can be flighted for a longer period of time. Great brand building ads tend to work hard for longer periods of time, if we let them.
Whilst most research focuses on television, the impact of wear out differs from media to media. The opposite of TV is true for print – wear out is high. When a consumer is reading a magazine they actively choose whether they want to absorb the print ad that they are exposed to, therefore, a lower frequency is needed than with broadcast media. Once the consumer has chosen to engage with an ad, they are unlikely to do so again – re-flighting the same creative month after month, therefore, won’t have an increase effect. Rotating print ads will minimise the impact of wear out in print media.
As radio is a broadcast medium just like TV, and because of the lack of rich radio research, we should apply some of the same learnings as TV. As with TV, it is likely that brand response, call-to-action; new information, humour and creative relevance can all increase the wear out of an ad. We also learnt from TV that high frequency can increase the irritation factor, and the same is true for radio.
Research shows that the optimum level of effective frequency within a purchase cycle is three (hear the ad three times) – beyond that, there is a decreasing impact. With this research we can assume that wear out increases when the effective frequency is increased. In other words, the higher the frequency, the sooner the ad will wear out.
While there isn’t research that shows us the impact of wear out on outdoor or digital advertising, we can assume from the existing research that the higher the frequency, the higher the wear out. Outdoor generally generates high frequency because people travel the same route on a daily basis. To avoid the ‘wallpaper effect’, marketers should rotate their creative fairly frequently.
With digital, we are able to control the frequency to specific browsers and marketers can use this knowledge to rotate copy accordingly. Digital also provides us the ability to gain learnings about campaign specific copy and adapt where needed while the campaign is live – it’s key that media planners and marketers take advantage of this ability.
So to wrap it up – before going through the process of approving the next creative campaign, marketers should always keep in mind the impact of wear out. Be sure to take the different levels of longevity of ads into account. By doing this, marketers will make their budgets stretch further, increasing ROI, and create more effective campaigns.
Isla Stringer is Group Head: Tiger Brands at The MediaShop. This post was first published in the company newsletter.
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