Villing & Company

Challenging the Idea of Repetitive TV Commercials

To my many friends in TV advertising or in media planning, I have a challenge for you.

I have been amazed by a trend that has evolved in recent years, specifically the practice of running identical TV spots twice in the same commercial break. To me this is not only an incredible waste of money; it also represents an annoying disregard for the interests of the viewer whose continued attention and engagement in the medium we so desperately need.

Someone, enlighten me. Please.

Before writing this article, I spent some time online looking for research that could provide a rationale for this concerning trend. I found none. Now I will be first to admit there are many people in our industry who are far more knowledgeable about media buying than I am. I will also admit that I understand, sort of, the premise of reinforcing messages through repetition. Indeed, that is why frequency is such a valued part of the classic media buying formula. I can even see some value in running spots from the same advertiser within a single pod – as long as the message is presented in a fresh and interesting way. Unfortunately, that is almost never the case.

Instead, we see hackneyed, uninspiring commercials repeated within seconds of each other. I believe the typical response to this repetition is a natural human one. “OK, I just saw this commercial a minute ago, I think I will get back to whatever I was doing before I was so rudely interrupted.”

Unlike some of the other traditional advertising media choices, television is doing a reasonably good job of continuing to be an efficient and relatively effective marketing communications vehicle. But I believe we are falling into a trap that could accelerate the erosion of that effectiveness. TV officials and advertisers must remember that first, foremost and always, the medium’s primary responsibility is to the viewer rather than the sponsor. If the needs of said viewer are being ignored or he or she is put off by an overabundance of annoying and irrelevant advertising content, there are other options. Television simply cannot afford to lose any more viewers than it already has or it risks becoming still another casualty of cultural irrelevance.

Filed Under: advertising

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