The Many Theories of Marketing Saturation and Fatigue

Media Works recently pulled together research for a client who asked about advertising wear out. Based on the studies below, there is no magic bullet answer to this question, as there are so many variables—particularly the quality of the creative.

The Advertising Research Foundation: Advertising Wear Out

There is not only wear out of ads, but also wear in of ads. To define each:

Wear out – the point where the mix of creative, media placement and spending begin to lose the ability to achieve a campaign’s communications objectives

Wear in – the point in time where a commercial/ad begins to provide impact.

So how do you determine wear in and wear out? There are variables like pre/post-testing, brand health tracking, advertising likeability, and purchase intention. The TRPs needed to reach wear out differs across categories and depends on the strength of the creative.

The Advertising Research Foundation: Super Bowl Case Study

We’re all familiar with the hype around the Super Bowl commercials. But how have advertisers adapted to social media? A recent case study revealed the impact of airing a Super Bowl prior to the game, on social media to find

  • Prior social-media exposure to an advertising campaign facilitates the wear-in process; it takes multiple exposures to a campaign before it has impact on consumers’ attitudes.
  • Viewing ads on multiple channels produces synergistic effects on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors as exposure to the advertisement in one medium primes interest in the second medium.
  • Engaging with ads on social media was driven mainly by how compelling, serious, or humorous consumers believed an advertisement would be.
  • Liking or sharing ads on social media was driven primarily by consumers’ cognitive thoughts about the advertisement or brand.

Ad Age: What’s the Frequency?

As media buyers and planners, we ask ourselves “what is the best frequency? How do I measure that across multiple channels?” There are many opinions on this topic:

  • Proctor & Gamble’s rule is a digital ad exposure of 3x per month. Their Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard states “People who watch a lot of media will be reached more times, which is why we’re so interested in cross-platform measurement, because all of that duplication that happens across digital players and TV players. If we could finally get to that point, I think we could drive out a lot of waste.”
  • Facebook & Oracle published a study theorizing the ideal average frequency is one to two impressions weekly, over at least 10 weeks, or 4x – 9x a month.
  • The Journal of Advertising poses that people tend to have an initial emotional connection when they see an ad one or two times. At three to ten times, people graduate to a more reasoned cognitive response. At 10+, they’ve developed a deeper emotional connection, especially if the creative is good.

There may never be a solution to this question. Because results vary across campaigns, it’s important to look at the data and react accordingly. And, above all else, standout, intriguing creative will improve all results.

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