How Many Ads is Too Many?

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How often should you update your online ads? How long can a campaign run before consumers get bored? The phenomenon of declining ad response due to overexposure has been a point of contention among marketers for years. Online, it’s called “banner burnout,” and it’s commonly thought to occur after the delivery of about 10,000 to 20,000 impressions.
Offline, ad burnout isn’t measured so much in terms of volume as it is in time of exposure. A recent test of 2,500 U.S. homes by The PreTesting Company found that “most people tire of TV commercials after just two weeks”:http://www.adrants.com/2005/08/study-measures-ad-viewership-campaign.php.
The obvious solution for both online and offline marketers would be to update their ad creative. Of course, this can be a costly and time-consuming process. But there is a way for marketers involved in cross-media campaigns to save on online costs by stretching their investment further.


Marketers have “long believed”:http://www.clickz.com/experts/media/media_buy/article.php/811901 that introducing an offline element, such as corresponding TV ads, to your online campaign can give even tired old banners a boost. For all of those cross-media marketers under the impression that banners are more disposable than they really are, I think this point is worthy of revisiting. Given the “continued trend”:http://www.marketingmag.ca/magazine/current/media/article.jsp?content=20050815_70016_70016 _(sub may be req’d)_ toward using TV ads to drive traffic to the Web, this could be the ideal time for advertisers to leverage their existing creative and extend the life of their banner ads. Why not launch an online campaign, let Internet users become familiar with your ads, then give those ads a lift with some correlating TV spots? This cross-media advertising strategy doesn’t just reduce your online ad development costs, but has the added benefit of turning ordinary banners into teasers, too.

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One thought on “How Many Ads is Too Many?

  1. Mitch Solway

    Good topic Tessa.
    I have several points of view and suggestions.
    1. Short duration by design. How long is enough is often determined by the advertiser. Many campaigns are designed to be short running intentionally. Superbowl ads come to mind. Ads that use shock value as well don’t last long. But they do create a flurry of interest and their impact is often felt for a significantly extended duration after the media buy has stopped. And that is planned.
    The recent Carls Jr. burger ad with Paris Hilton comes to mind. I gotta believe the media coverage they got from a public relations perspective was significantly greater and certainly lasted much longer than their actual media buy. The Apple Big Brother ad from years ago was another good example. The ad ran once but is still remembered today. So I believe that a campaign with a short duration is either a result of planning….or a poor ad.
    2. With a good ad media management is the key to extended duration. Let’s face it if an ad pulls then it pulls. The only time it will stop pulling is if you a) run out of media dollars or, b) run out of audience. There are literally thousands of ways that you can use your media buy and media testing to significantly extend any campaign that works. One of the best is to find your media channel that delivers the lowest cost per inquiry. If you have $30,000 to spend on media and your spend it on a channel that delivers at half the cost per inquiry as another then you can run the campaign on for twice as long on the same budget. It may buy you 3 months of media at once source but 6 in another. The question of duration has less to do with our advertising but how you want to allocate your media dollars.
    3. Find the revolving door media. A campaign that works can run for years – no kidding. You just need to find a revolving door media channel. What I mean is a channel where new prospects are continually arriving for the first time. When I ran marketing for Lavalife we would run ads in the newspaper classifieds. Every day new people would enter the dating market and turn to the classifieds section to find a service. The key was advertising optimization – find the ad that pulled the best and run with it. It was not unusual to have a print ad run for two years. It was always fresh and always relevant because the audience was always new and continual. Our job was to continually advance the performance of the ad to continually drive down acquisition costs (through increasing inquiries with no incremental spend). Sometime it would take us two years to beat a previous execution. We would drop a new ad in and if it outperformed then it was King…if not then back to the previous version.
    Same thing for our late night television ads. New prospects were entering the market every day. Our television ads would also run for years without loosing effectiveness. In fact, the current spot running now is the same one I developed over 3 years ago!!! Now, I left Lavalife shortly after that but I am going to assume that it is still pulling at strong levels because they are still running it.
    4. Customers who are bored by your ads. As a marketer you want everyone to like your ads…but it doesn’t always happen and frankly it doesn’t matter. As long as it is pulling for you boring other people is a non issue. These people are not responding to your ad (or maybe they already did) so no big deal. To change your advertising just to appease the bored audience is the wrong motivation.
    So……that is a lot of stuff. But the fact is there are many factors that can impact the duration of a campaign. And most of them are in your control. The biggest lesson is to understand the impact and effectiveness and to continually test to optimize your media. If you can cut your cost per inquiries by 20% from good media management that in and of itself turns back 20% of your spend….which you can re-invest in more duration!
    So one day or three years….it is all available.

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