Do TV Ads “Wear Out”?
Millward Brown, 2012
Broadly speaking, the response generated by a TV ad doesn’t change much over time. True “wearout” of a TV ad is rare, and many TV ads could have a longer useful life than advertisers realize. The one real exception to this rule has to do with ads that focus on product news. Such ads will become less effective over time, because the people who are receptive to the message will be persuaded quickly, while those who are not receptive will not be won over by repeated viewings. Saturation of media weight over a short space of time can also create the impression of ad wearout; however, in such cases it may be the media buying strategy, rather than the effectiveness of the specific execution,that needs to be reviewed.
Advertisers often ask us how many GRPs they can put behind an ad before it “stops working.” They also wonder if past copy can be rerun or if it has no remaining value. These are important financial issues for them. Producing TV ads is expensive and requires a long lead time. Airtime may need to be booked months before actual airing, and an assessment of the number of ads required needs to be made early.
How might TV ads wear out?
Conceivably, an ad might wear out in its ability to accomplish any one of the basic advertising tasks. An ad could wear out in terms of:
Generating engagement, i.e., making people aware that the brand has advertised
Creating an attitudinal or empathic response among viewers
Communicating messages or impressions
Producing a brand response, including sales
Millward Brown measures Engagement through the
Awareness Index, a metric that describes a brand’s ability
to make people aware that the brand has advertised. Our
evidence suggests that in this respect, TV ads very rarely
wear out. We analyzed 450 ads that aired in two or more
bursts and observed that the Awareness Index (AI) changed
in only 6 percent of cases. (And in the cases where the AI
changed, the direction was evenly split: AIs went up in 3
percent of cases and down in 3 percent of cases.)
Ads that are good at generating branded awareness tend
to remain so over time. However, factors external to the ad
itself can occasionally seem to cause wearout in this respect.
One such factor could be the ad’s content — for example,
if a featured celebrity falls out of favor with the public. But
another more common cause of apparent wearout is heavy
media spending over a short period of time. When this
occurs, multiple exposures will net more repeat viewings than
new ones, limiting any incremental increase in advertising
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Do TV Ads “Wear Out”?
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