Is repetition really good?

One does not expect declarative language in as scholarly a publication as The Journal of Advertising Research.But in the September/October 1992 issue, academics William James and Arthur Kover use considerable injunction to make their point.Help peopleIn their article, 'Observations: Do overall...

One does not expect declarative language in as scholarly a publication as The Journal of Advertising Research.

But in the September/October 1992 issue, academics William James and Arthur Kover use considerable injunction to make their point.

Help people

In their article, ‘Observations: Do overall attitudes towards advertising affect involvement with specific ads?,’ they argue that ‘it is the task of the industry to help people like advertising.’

Their analysis shows that individual advertisements are affected in their impact and persuasiveness by the general quality of the advertising environment in which they run.

This may seem like common sense. Still, it is disconcerting to have confirmed that lousy ads dilute the currency of the industry.

Usually, the discussion about improving overall advertising quality focusses on creative. More originality is, in fact, part of the solution.

But it may be the primary culprit in dragging down the norm for effectiveness and likability in advertising is not the creative but the repetition.

The repetition of ‘reach and frequency.’

Every media plan I have ever been exposed to has set targets and rationale for certain ‘reach and frequency’ levels.

Any discussion about when creative has achieved ‘wearout’ involved tabulating grps to understand whether we had reached a point of ‘frequency’ saturation.

All of us have grown up in the marketing business convinced that tonnage of message builds business.

We believe repetition is a tool, a device, for breaking through clutter, for creating impact.

Now we need to wonder whether the repetition is not itself primarily responsible for most of the clutter.

Robert Wurman, in his book, Information Anxiety, argues our society is drowning in ‘information pollution.’

Repetition adds to the mess, contaminating the communications environment, even diluting the effectiveness of communications which are the most original and have the most impact.

Business restructuring is about challenging even the most fundamental of our operating assumptions.

Surely, it only makes good business sense to suspect the effectiveness of any communications model that was developed and validated before the explosion of computer technology, before the revolutionary changes of the information age, that so dramatically transformed how we get access to and use information, how we buy products and do business.

Another era

‘Reach and frequency’ is not only a selling model from another era.

The point is that when this formula was first developed, consumers were far more passive and far less sophisticated.

Media choices were very few. And business spoke with confidence from the point of view of its interest – the product, the message.

Today, the people who choose and buy products are smarter, more selective, more discerning.

Importantly, they are not only ‘consumers’ of goods, they are also ‘consumers’ of information. Zappers and vcrs have given them nearly endless choice.They are no longer the captive audience upon which the ‘reach and frequency’ model was predicated.

Business has learned it must put the interest of the customer first in the product it develops and the service it provides. Yet the repetition of message is really only a convenience to the marketer.

It takes for granted, and often abuses with intrusiveness, the interest of the audience. This is hardly ‘customer-first’ thinking.

Relationship

Advertising, as a tool of marketing, is responsible for helping create and cement the relationship between a possible customer and a brand.

We know from human interchange that relationships require constant work. Relationships, if they are to remain dynamic, must fight boredom. They need surprise, renewal, and exchanges of increasing depth and diversity.

Repetition is anti-relationship because it is boring.

So, if we are worried about declines in brand equity, then we have to question the wisdom of barraging consumers with the same message, and the same execution, again and again and again.

Our challenge is to create a new communications model, one based on the notion of ‘reach and renew.’

Emotions

As with all human relationships, the goal would be to bring more diversity, surprise, knowledge, humor, depth and empathy to the communications cluster which presents a brand’s selling message to its prospective audience.

With ‘reach and renew,’ every message, every exposure, is a chance for renewal, for adding new dimensions to further bond brand and customer.

This model takes the insight skills of marketers, and the creative skills of advertising professionals, to new heights.

More creative, more executions will be needed to provide the renewal, and to reward the attention of the ever-more-elusive ‘consumer of information.’

Some marketers and agencies are already deploying ‘reach and renew’ thinking.

Chiat/Day’s employee interview campaign for Canadian Airlines International. Nestle’s Taster’s Choice romantic neighbors series. The chaos of Nike’s ‘everything goes’ style of communication.

Respect

Each of these campaigns respects the intelligence of the audience. Each understands that reaching them is not enough.

The audience must be involved, engaged, renewed, giving the restless consumer a fresh reason for tuning into the message each time out.

In these examples, diversity is not only part of the strategy, it is central to it.

‘Reach and renew’ is exciting because it provides a new context for mining the considerable strategic and creative skills resident in most ad agencies.

It is also disconcerting because it requires throwing away a lot of the established media models and production systems.

But, again, isn’t this what restructuring demands of us anyway? Isn’t this what serving the customer dictates?

They are no longer the captive audience upon which the ‘reach and frequency’ model was predicated.

Business has learned it must put the interest of the customer first in the product it develops and the service it provides. Yet the repetition of message is really only a convenience to the marketer.

It takes for granted, and often abuses with intrusiveness, the interest of the audience. This is hardly ‘customer-first’ thinking.

Advertising, as a tool of marketing, is responsible for helping create and cement the relationship between a possible customer and a brand.

We know from human interchange that relationships require constant work. Relationships, if they are to remain dynamic, must fight boredom. They need surprise, renewal, and exchanges of increasing depth and diversity.

Repetition is anti-relationship because it is boring.

So, if we are worried about declines in brand equity, then we have to question the wisdom of barraging consumers with the same message, and the same execution, again and again and again.

Our challenge is to create a new communications model, one based on the notion of ‘reach and renew.’

As with all human relationships, the goal would be to bring more diversity, surprise, knowledge, humor, depth and empathy to the communications cluster which presents a brand’s selling message to its prospective audience.

With ‘reach and renew,’ every message, every exposure, is a chance for renewal, for adding new dimensions to further bond brand and customer.

This model takes the insight skills of marketers, and the creative skills of advertising professionals, to new heights.

More creative, more executions will be needed to provide the renewal, and to reward the attention of the ever-more-elusive ‘consumer of information.’

Some marketers and agencies are already deploying ‘reach and renew’ thinking.

Chiat/Day’s employee interview campaign for Canadian Airlines International. Nestle’s Taster’s Choice romantic neighbors series. The chaos of Nike’s ‘everything goes’ style of communication.

Each of these campaigns respects the intelligence of the audience. Each understands that reaching them is not enough.

The audience must be involved, engaged, renewed, giving the restless consumer a fresh reason for tuning into the message each time out.

In these examples, diversity is not only part of the strategy, it is central to it.

‘Reach and renew’ is exciting because it provides a new context for mining the considerable strategic and creative skills resident in most ad agencies.

It is also disconcerting because it requires throwing away a lot of the established media models and production systems.

But, again, isn’t this what restructuring demands of us anyway? Isn’t this what serving the customer dictates?