Adlibs: The power of repetition, the power of repetition, the...


Catherine climbed the ranks from sales person to sales manager at her paper. “Although I’ve been in the business for a long time,” she told me, “there’s always a new way to look at advertising.”

She mentioned a recent trip to a fast food restaurant. “I was between meetings in a nearby town and needed a quick lunch. So I dropped by McDonalds. It had been over a year since my last trip to a McDonalds, and I was trying to choose between two of their trademark products, a Big Mac and a Quarter Pounder. I was planning to ask the cashier about the ingredients in the Big Mac, then all of a sudden I remembered their famous television jingle from my childhood. ‘Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.’ I hadn’t thought about that in years, but it was in my memory bank. I did an online search later and was proud that had I remembered every ingredient in the proper order.”

That McDonalds campaign ran for about a year and a half in the mid-Seventies. And 40 years later, Catherine still remembered. That’s the power of repetition.

Would she have remembered the jingle if it had run only one time? Not a chance.

Did you learn the multiplication tables by going through them one time? What about the alphabet? Can you hear a new song one time and sing along the next time you hear it on the radio?

Catherine’s experience reinforced her belief in the importance of repetition in advertising. “I remember one advertiser – an apartment developer – who wanted to run a splashy grand opening ad. But he didn’t want to run anything at all after that. He figured the grand opening would create so much buzz in the market that he wouldn’t need to advertise any more for a long time. In the short run, it would have been nice for my paper to have that full-page, full color ad, but we knew it would have been a waste of his budget. We worked hard to talk him into turning that full-page budget into a mini-campaign that stretched over several weeks. We felt if we could demonstrate the value of repeating his message – with measurable results – then we could talk about extending the campaign. Our strategy worked, and he became a consistent advertiser.”

Catherine explained that her team tells advertisers about two key principles of advertising: reach and frequency. How many people will they reach? And how frequently will they reach them? Yes, a business can run one ad one time and reach all the readers in her paper’s distribution base. But without frequency, there’s little chance for success.

“Most of the time, it’s a simple concept for advertisers to understand,” she said. “Once they realize that repetition is a solid strategy, they are willing to hear how to make it work. Everybody wins. They get better results and we increase our ad count.”

(c) 2017 by John Foust. All rights reserved.