Run your TV ads until you’re sick of seeing them!

By Chris Blair

We buy and place a lot of media. One trend I see (and don’t agree with) is to produce an ad, run it in heavy rotation for 3 or 4 days, then assess it’s effectiveness based on sales figures during that period. Sorry to be harsh but that is lunacy!

There’s no way you can run your ad campaigns and promotions for just 3 or 4 days and expect them to consistently deliver results. Of course there are times when a particular event or sale could potentially benefit from this type of buy, but I’m talking about companies using this technique week in and week out for ALL of their television ad buys.

The scenario usually goes like this. A company spends a few days producing a commercial then they buy ad time on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The spot gets placed and the client tracks sales several times a day at multiple store locations. If after the second day, sales aren’t up over last year, it’s decided the ad “isn’t working.” That means either pulling the ad and replacing it with something else (that previously did well), or revising the ad with a new “sell” message of one kind or the other.

When you consider the average person has hundreds of channels available on their TV, dozens of media and entertainment options on their computer, smartphone, netbook or iPad, it’s asking a lot to expect people to see an ad and respond to it in a two or three day window. Especially if the product or service isn’t something that demands immediacy.

In my opinion, you simply cannot run a new television ad every week or two using different messaging, different visual looks and disparate brand promises and expect it to have a significant long term impact on sales or brand awareness. I believe you have to hammer your message into the minds of consumers!

Ever notice how advertisers like Target, Wal-Mart, Budweiser, and dozens of others place an ad, then run it for what seems like FOREVER? My favorite example is Enterprise Rent-a-Car. They have an ad that shows a woman standing in front of a “repair shop.” How do I know it’s a “repair shop?” Because there’s a big, lame-ass sign that says “REPAIR SHOP” hanging right behind her. She’s on her cell-phone and she says, “Enterprise, I need to rent a car.” The ad segues into a voice over that says Enterprise will pick you up and get you on your way. That darn ad ran for probably 6 or 7 years straight during NCAA basketball games in the early part of this decade. Then, when the ad started looking dated, Enterprise produced a new ad. Guess what? It has virtually the same copy, but uses a new, more hip looking actress standing in front of the same lame “REPAIR SHOP” sign. Yes…the ad is almost word for word and shot for shot the same as the original!

Why does this ad work? Because it’s simple, has only a couple of messages, and Enterprise runs the holy crap out of it! Enterprise went from being something like the 5th largest rental car company in the 1980s to the largest rental car company in North America. Naturally they didn’t do it solely because of their advertising, but it certainly helped.

Of course, if you’ve ever rented a car from Enterprise, you also know their primary sales message of “we’ll pick you up” is a crock. I think I’ve personally rented from them a half dozen times and for one reason or another they’ve never been able to come pick me up to get my rental. If you read blogs about Enterprise, just about every post says the exact same thing. However, they must be doing something right to grow so large.

Another example I like to use is the Budweiser “Wassup” campaign from a few years ago. The ads became so popular the actors scored guest appearances on late-night talk shows like Jay Leno and David Letterman. But what most people don’t realize is the ads ran incessantly for at least 6 months (mainly during sporting events) before they gained pop culture status. What if Budweiser had run the ad for a weekend and said, “awww…this isn’t working!” Do you think the “Wassup” saying still would’ve become a catch-phrase?

All this begs the question, why do people create so many different ads and run them for such short periods of time? As my dad used to say, “hell…I don’t know!” One media buyer at a large agency explained it to me this way. “We don’t want a client’s ad to get stale and we want customers to think the client has something new going on.” Another ad executive opined: “We’re just responding to market conditions. As consumers tastes change we’re changing with them.” To both of these responses I say, HUH?!?

If you don’t develop a consistent story about your company and stick with that story, customers will see your ads for what they are, a hard-sell attempt at getting their business. Television viewers are way too savvy for that. They can see right through that stuff. So if you’re going to produce television ads, run them! Even low-budget ads cost thousands to produce. RUN THEM! Run the crap out of them. Run them until you’re sick of seeing and hearing them. When you get to that point, that’s about the time they’ll start being effective.