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Making It Stick: Frequency in Advertising

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What’s the key to effective frequency?

In advertising, the term “effective frequency” is the number of times a consumer must be exposed to an advertising message before the marketer gets the desired response, whether that be a product purchase, name recognition, or some other result.

Research has proven that messages are more effective and actually perceived as more truthful when they are repeated.

One study concluded that prospects must see an ad 9 times before they become a customer.

Another method claims the magic number is 7.

Some marketers argue that your message should be repeated up to 20 times.

So, how many times must a prospect see your marketing message to transition from a state of total apathy to purchase readiness?


The 1st time people look at an ad, they don’t see it.
The 2nd time, they don’t notice it.
The 3rd time, they are aware that it is there.
The 4th time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it before.
The 5th time, they actually read the ad.
The 6th time, they thumb their nose at it.
The 7th time, they get a little irritated with it.
The 8th time, they think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
The 9th time, they wonder if they’re missing out on something.
The 10th time, they ask their friends or neighbors if they’ve tried it.
The 11th time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The 12th time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The 13th time, they start to feel the product has value.
The 14th time, they start to feel like they’ve wanted a product like this for a long time.
The 15th time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
The 16th time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
The 17th time, they make a commitment to buy the product.
The 18th time, they curse their poverty because they can’t buy this terrific product.
The 19th time, they count their money very carefully.
The 20th time prospects see the ad, they buy what it is offering.

-Thomas Smith, from his 1885 book “Successful Advertising”


In truth, there is no universally correct answer. Frequency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds trust. But other factors come into play when determining the right frequency for your message.

How well-known is your organization? Are you trying to change public opinion with your message? What’s your overall goal? What do you hope to accomplish with your message?

Ask yourself these important questions when considering how the frequency of your message will affect the desired outcome of your ad campaign.

Don’t end the campaign too quickly.

It can take months or even years for some messages to connect with consumers. Avoid changing your messaging too soon, even if you’re feeling bored with it.

Repeated exposure to an opinion makes people believe the opinion is more prevalent, even if that opinion is only from a single source. When consumers remember a statement that gets repeated, they are more likely to believe it. Eventually, they begin to think it is the popular opinion.

Let’s say that 9 times is the right frequency for your message. For every 3 times you expose your prospect to your marketing message, it gets missed or ignored 2 of those times. This means your message must touch the consumer a total of 27 times in order to make those 9 impressions stick.


Wondering if your marketing strategy is missing something?
Condron Media can help.
Drop us a line at hi@condronmedia.com.

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