“Effective” frequency? How about “offensive” frequency?

In Ad Creative, Media on July 17, 2009 at 1:21 pm

In the world of media planning, “effective frequency” describes the minimum number of times a TV spot must be seen by an individual within a certain period of time for its message to make an impression.  It seems to me (and I’ve taught media courses) that there is  little science and a great deal of guesswork in arriving at a number. The starting point is typically three, but that number can vary widely for all kinds of reasons. many of them arbitrary

My TV watching is probably about average in amount. But if I am to believe that media planners are doing their jobs well,  certain ad campaigns must have “effective frequency” numbers of approximately 7,253.  They aren’t necessarily bad commercials. But I CAN’T STAND SEEING THEM ANY MORE!

For starters, let’s talk Alltel. Perhaps you’ve seen the spot in which good old Chad is led by an androgynous child up to his family, scavenging in an amusement park. The big payoff line is  “Billy, I found you a new retainer!”  I’ve come to inadvertently recite the dialogue along with the characters.  Another Alltel spot is less annoying, but only a little less overexposed. Chad helps a group of superheroes to stay connected inexpensively with “My Circle.”

Another candidate for most overplayed spot is the one showing two women at a coffeehouse who become giddy at the concept of McDonald’s offering fancy coffees. I could talk about the creative on this one, too. I don’t know whom they are targeting, but you certainly aren’t going to convert coffeehouse lovers by insulting their pretentiousness. Maybe a few Joe or Jill ‘Sixpacks” will bump up their regular coffee order to a higher price point, but that’s about it. Oh yes, another spot in this campaign is (in my humble opinion, of course)  also a creative disaster; it features a soccer dad at a traffic light defending his van to a sneering motorcyclist by telling him it’s a “van-AY”‘ — after looking at his McCafe’. (Get it?) What a horrible stretch.

As soon as I end this post, I will no doubt see (fifty times) another spot I wish I had included. But let’s open it up to you! Any TV spots that you just can’t stand to see any more? Check in with your comments; I would hate to give any deserving over-advertiser a free pass!

As for you media planners….try to make sure you’re not turning those gross rating points into grating points.

  1. I would have to nominate Subway for the Hall of Fame for offensive frequency. Starting with all the various Jared spots and continuing with the $5 Dollar Foot Long ads. Though they do vary their ads a little bit but the theme is the same, and everyone knows of Jared and $5 Dollar Foot Longs, so I guess their advertising works… unfortunately.

    • Agreed! I don’t find most of their spots as outright annoying as I do others, but there have been a few; the one that jumps out to me is the $5 Foot Long spot that strips together a variety of atonal “singers” trying to cobble together the jingle. (The bass player giving it a Sinatra/lounge singer treatment was the worst!)

      What interested me about Subway was when they came down from their ‘all foot-longs $5″ promo and tried to keep it positive: “You can still get many of your favorite foot-longs….”

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