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Marketing Academy.

The science of advertising: when to do it, for how long, and how to avoid disasters

How many times to expose people to our advertising

The advertising response curve is“convex”, meaning that the greatest marginal benefit comes from the audience's first exposures to our message.

So the first contact of an individual with an advertising campaign corresponds to the moment in which we have the greatest possibility of "hooking" him.

As the number of cumulative exposures in a period increases, the marginal effect of advertising decreases.

This decrease in response indicates that customers are less and less likely to respond to repeated advertisements.

Therefore: we must show each person our advertisement as few times as possible .

The advertising effects curve
The advertising effects curve

How long do we have to advertise?

As we have seen, advertising has a convex marginal response. With each subsequent exposure to the first ones, people will be more and more desensitized and the commercial will be more and more useless. And this is the simple version.

Let's now add another piece to this very interesting picture.

In the literature it is noted that multiple advertising exposures spaced over time - i.e. well-distributed exposures - produce greater retention of the message compared to exposures in short and narrow time intervals.

People use more resources and therefore learn more effectively when they are exposed to the same message provided sufficient time passes between one exposure and the next. This is because the brain has more time to process information and create connections between the advertisement, the brand and the product or service promoted.

These two scientific pieces of evidence are perfectly consistent with each other:

  1. Human beings are victims of biases, including the primacy effect. “You never forget your first love”.

  2. If there is to be a second love, it is better to spend enough time after the first. This way the brain can “reset” (I use the term figuratively) and be ready again.

Aside from the metaphor, one of the most extraordinarily repeated and insistent errors of many marketers and entrepreneurs (often self-defined gurus and Masters) is that of "bombarding" their audience with very heavy advertising operations which they sell out in a few weeks.

Waste of money, at best. At worst, customers develop banner blindness, effectively becoming insensitive even to other companies' advertisements. Damage to the entire market.

So: we need to plan our advertising over the longest period possible. Ideally forever.

In this scheme in which each square is a week, we notice an ideal planning.

Distribution of advertising over time
Ideal distribution of advertising over time

Can we stop our advertising schedule?

For various strategic or financial reasons, sometimes brands stop running broad-spectrum advertising campaigns (aimed at coverage/reach, i.e. at as many customers as possible) for a year or more. That is, they literally interrupt communication with their potential customers.

Research analyzed two decades of advertising activities of as many as 41 brands of beer, spirits, cider and alcohol in the broadest sense. All brands that, in one way or another, have managed advertising intermittently, with long periods of activity and then "blackouts".

Really interesting findings emerged which confirm the vital and necessary role of advertising.

Among these:

  • When brands stop advertising, sales generally decline rather rapidly. Unfortunately, the collapse continues over time and does not reach a plateau.

  • We're talking about important numbers. The average decrease in sales was -16% after one year of no advertising, -25% after two years and -36% after three years.

  • The size of the brand and the trajectory of sales before advertising ceases influence these figures. As we expect (law of the double jeopardy of marketing) sales decline more rapidly for small brands and those already in decline.

  • The big growing brands normally boast great inertia, and this trend has also been confirmed by the data. In fact, these brands continued to grow for months after advertising stopped. Reverse situation for small growing brands, whose decline begins consistently with the cessation of advertising activity.

So: NEVER interrupt your advertising planning, especially if you are a small brand.


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