The Three Objectives Of Advertising

Why do most advertising campaigns stick with a single-length commercial throughout a schedule regardless of the length of flight, rarely rotating in shorter-length creative as the campaign progresses? We believe there’s a sound psychological and media rationale to consider doing so more frequently.
Advertising has three key “media-related” objectives, if it’s not a limited time offer or promotionally focused:
1. To maximize reach. Reach as many potential customers as possible, the heavy buyer, the light buyer, as well as the current non-buyer who can transition to become a buyer (the marketing law of moderation). Consumer purchasing habits are extremely fluid with the non-buyers/users of today evolving into buyer/users of tomorrow. Purchasing decisions change due to personal circumstances and whims, which is why it’s so important for an advertiser to reach everyone who has the “potential” to purchase a product/service (which is almost everyone). Companies become big because they have more customers, not because their customers buy more frequently. And the way to become “big” is make a lot of people aware of what you’re offering.
2. Maintain “visibility.” The absent are oft forgotten. Figure out a way to remain on-air as many weeks as a budget will allow. This “continuing brand presence” leads to share-of-voice and share-of-mind which plays a big role in share-of-market. Consumer buying never stops, so maintaining marketing “visibility” for as long as possible generally leads to good things.
3. To pay as little as possible. It’s our job to highlight that “paying less” for “more” is only good if it is the right kind of “more,” which it often isn’t.
Consumers typically go through a three-stage cognitive process when exposed to radio commercials (or advertising via any other medium), asking themselves a few questions, usually in a fraction of a second:
— What am I hearing?
— Have I heard it before?
— Do I need to continue listening?
The answer to this last question leads to either continued engagement if relevant, or disengagement if not.
Answers to these questions are also determined by the number of times someone’s heard a commercial. Do we pay as much attention to a commercial the fifth time we’re exposed to it, as the first? Hopefully not. After the first exposure, we skip the first two questions and begin to just focus on, do we need to continue listening?
We’re busy, easily distracted with an ever-decreasing attention span. Once we’ve been exposed to anything, it changes forever how we process it. With radio commercials, we quickly segue to the “already heard it, know what it says, and on to the next event” mode in a matter of seconds.
So if this process takes just a few moments, why continue to advertise exclusively with :60s or :30s when these more costly commercials have evolved to function more like  :05s, :10s or :15s?
A commercial’s life cycle is comprised of two phases. The first phase “educates” and often lasts an exposure or two at most. The second phase is the “remind” phase. The vast majority of any ad campaign’s paid gross impressions fall within this “remind” phase, as that’s frequency, which is every exposure beyond the first.
And what’s the definition of “remind”? According to the dictionary it’s “to cause (a person) to remember.” How much time does it usually take one to remember? Often not a lot.
Let’s relate this to a radio ad campaign and how this might benefit our clients.
Each station’s audience is comprised of heavy and light listeners. The heaviest and heavy listeners will be obviously exposed to more commercials than the light and lightest listeners, which means that each station’s audience will be comprised of different segments of listeners who are processing the identical commercial differently.
To the heaviest and heavy listeners, the commercial will serve to “remind,” to the light and lightest listeners who’ve yet to be exposed to it, once exposed, it will serve to “educate.” And with each passing week, fewer and fewer listeners will be left to “educate” as the reach of the campaign increases.
So in light of this, why not consider rotating in shorter and less costly, similar-themed commercial units to serve as a cost-effective and reach-generating “reminder” to those who’ve been previously exposed to the message, while continuing to air :30s or :60s to “educate” those exposed for the first time? The rotation of these longer and shorter length commercials could even be adjusted throughout the campaign based upon the commercial’s life cycle.
This accomplishes two of the key media related objectives referenced above by enhancing the reach of the campaign while extending the advertiser’s continued brand presence. This tactic will not negatively impact total spend but could make that spend more impactful.
Sometimes what’s old is new and what’s effective is simple.


  1. Naw. You can show them the comment yourself and enjoy the indignant, but still inane squabbling.
    I don’t, by the way, have a gender bias when it comes to skewering clods.
    And this has what to do with Bob’s commentary…?

  2. Oh Ronnie,

    For those who missed it…say those classy three little words that you fired at me a week ago. I’ve tipped off my lady colleagues. We women stick together on your type.

  3. What a squalid, little troll.
    Yes, I believe Bob knows a great deal about his area of expertise – as do I.
    He has credibility with me.
    We could collaborate. 🙂

  4. Planning for or even tinkering with the length of ads and their placement over time deserves some serious considerations.
    So, I’m glad Bob is on the job with these thoughtful positions.
    The forms of the messaging (spawts), however, are not (generally) being taken up with any much more intensity than it takes to change the terlet rolls in the staff washroom – the “two-holer” out behind the building.

  5. I agree with salesguy. A commercial needs to be as long as it needs to be to do the job.
    As a writer of radio ads for over 26 years I find 10 second increments are fine. A 47 second ad would generally be the result of poor discipline at the writing or production stage. The longest Ad I’ve been involved with (on the production side) was 3 minutes long. It was REQUESTED by listeners and only played out 3 times a week (yet it got the client great results!) . A friend of mine wrote a great 10″ ad that won loads of awards… and worked.
    I hate the idea of 30 seconds as standard but that’s what it’s become in the UK!

  6. I have to disagree that companies become big because they have more customers, not because they buy more frequently.’ If everyone in North America bought from Walmart only once, they’d be out of business by now. They need shoppers to buy from them repeatedly.
    Otherwise, some great food for thought

  7. Terrific comments, Bob. You’ve got a handle on it. 60s and 30s became the “standard” radio ad because in the network feed days, that was the cutaway time allotted to the “local station.” It had nothing to do with effectiveness. I’ve sold :47 second ads, 20 second ads, 90 second ads and others of varying lengths, because that was the needed length to tell the story. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?


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