Apple's 1984 ad.I love advertising. There. I admit it. I love the idea of telling a story that results in somebody buying something. I love being able to create ads that move people. But there’s another part to advertising that frequently gets overlooked by creative types (like me) and customers. The two sides of that particular coin are frequency and impressions.

Let’s say your ad agency writes the mother of all ads – an ode to your product that makes grown men cry, women salute, and people flock to your product. Let’s say you decide to launch this ad out into the public – doesn’t matter if it’s in print or broadcast. Now you have a decision…how many times to run the ad.

Pause with me for a nanosecond.

Here’s the ugly truth – if you don’t run that ad…A LOT…it won’t get noticed. I can only think of one ad that ran only one time (supposedly) and got a lot of people talking. (It was the Apple “1984” ad, if you’re curious.) Since not all of us can afford to hire Ridley Scott to direct, and drop a cool million on a Super Bowl slot, let’s get real. Ads are basically stories. If you have a good story, people will respond. Just like any other story, people need to hear it over and over again before they can tell the story themselves. It’s just like the oral tradition in folklore. In radio, the mantra is “your prospect must hear your ad 15 times before they buy.” I’m here to tell you, it’s much the same in TV and print.

Think of it like this. Let’s say you want to run an ad in the newspaper. You want to reach your potential market. Now lets draw some circles on a page. The page represents all the people in your market. The first circle represents the percentage of people who read the newspaper. The second (hopefully overlapping) circle represents the people who are in the market for your product. The area that overlaps is the people you can potentially reach with your ad in the paper. But wait…there’s less. Let’s draw a smaller, concentric circle inside the first one. This circle represents the people that happen to read the newspaper on the day your ad actually runs. Now lets draw an even smaller concentric circle inside that one. This circle represents the people that turned to that page your ad was on. (Remember, not everyone who reads the paper, reads it all the way through.) Get the picture? You can have the greatest ad in the world, and still not reach your market sufficiently if you don’t run the ad often enough to get the market penetration you need.

Think on this…whatever you have for a media budget, make sure that you include enough frequency (and enough repetitions) to get the number of impressions you need to make your case. Without repetitions, your ad is like a bullet that misses it’s target – completely ineffective.

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