Extra Edition / Business Management

Advertising Requires Frequency and Continuity

July 6, 2009
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The memory of consumers is short. Your customers and prospects will not remember an advertising message that they see or hear just once or twice. The message has to be repeated. That’s why you regularly see the same ads over and over. For advertising to be successful, your message has to have sufficient frequency and continuity.

Back in 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, published his important seminal research on learning and forgetting in Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. Ebbinghaus formulated the “forgetting curve” which shows how fast people forget information they have learned.

His memory experiments indicated that people forget more than 60 percent of what they have learned within nine hours. All of the information is not lost, however. Eventually the forgetting levels off. Ebbinghaus’ experiments also showed that the ability to remember information improved as the number of repetitions increased.

This basic research demonstrates that, if you want people to remember your message, you have to apply advertising frequency. There has to be an adequate number of repetitions to ensure that people recall your ad and what you are trying to get across.

The most memorable ads have used frequency - repetition - to make sure that you remembered that ad. Without frequency, you can’t get the most bang for your advertising buck.

But, you also can’t run your ad endlessly for a few weeks and then stop advertising for the rest of the year. You also need continuity. The ad needs to run over an adequate period of time to maximize remembrance.

If you had all the money in the world, you would then advertise every day, all week, 52 weeks a year. Since you likely don’t have that big a budget, you need to make a compromise that will achieve an effective level of advertising within your marketing budget. This might entail spreading out your advertising over the year with a monthly schedule that gives you regular exposure. Or you might use seasonal advertising, focusing on running ads in the late spring/early summer for the air conditioning season, then taking some time off before running ads in the late fall/early winter for the heating season.

If you have a big enough budget, you could go with regular advertising throughout the year with a seasonal burst to run more ads in the cooling season and the heating season.

Whichever approach you take, you need to keep in mind the need for sufficient advertising frequency and continuity to make sure you are using your ad dollars wisely so your message isn’t forgotten.

Before joining the editorial staff of The NEWS over 12 years ago, Greg Mazurkiewicz worked in public relations and advertising for more than 20 years. In this periodic series of articles, he will share some of his expertise in the field of marketing communications.

Publication date: 07/06/2009

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