MEDIA: FORUM - Are media planners guilty of over-exposing ads?/Viewers don’t dislike commercials. They just object to having to watch the same ones over and over. That is the conclusion of a report from the Independent Television Commission. Are s

So, it’s official then - a lot of people are bored by advertising.

So, it’s official then - a lot of people are bored by


According to the Independent Television Commission report, Television:

The Public’s View, published last week, more than a third of TV viewers

feel there are too many ads on the small screen these days. But that’s

just in terrestrial TV homes. In multichannel homes, the figure rises

noticeably, with 45 per cent saying they feel swamped by


What’s more, they feel the problem is exacerbated by the fact that there

appears to be so little variety on show.

You don’t have to watch much cable and satellite television to realise

you’re in saturation bombing territory. Sometimes it seems as if the

whole break is replicated in its entirety, time after time. A symptom,

perhaps, of low demand and the practice of selling airtime in vast

amorphous packages?

On the other hand, it could be argued that if you see (and remember

seeing) any ad more than once, that is nothing more than extremely good


There is some good news in the report - especially for creatives. Almost

90 per cent of viewers think ads are well produced and 80 per cent

believe they are clever and entertaining. But are media planners getting

it badly wrong? Are they letting the industry down? What happened to

those clever planning models that gave accurate insights into effective


Robert Ray, the joint managing director of MediaVest, maintains that the

communications industry faces many challenges - some of which are at

odds with each other. Low-audience delivery channels offer good

targeting opportunities, but to develop coverage you have to run ads

many times. This leads to clutter - and where there is clutter,

advertising has to work harder to achieve standout.

Ray says: ’In a multichannel environment, one thing that planners must

ensure is that the advertising is relevant to the audience. It is true

that to a certain extent you have to consider channels with low audience

delivery in much the same way as you would look at radio. You are

running a lot of airtime and, ideally, you would have a number of

different executions.

That, in turn, becomes a production cost issue. Effectiveness and

efficiency continue to be at the top of advertisers’ agendas. These

days, they also tend to take a longer view rather than looking at

campaigns in terms of short, sharp shocks.’

But is the industry forgetting the lessons it has learned about

effective frequency - an extremely fashionable topic among researchers a

couple of years ago.

Phil Gullen, the managing director of Carat Insight, hopes not. He

comments: ’Not all the research agrees on this - but most does. The

general rule is that once you’ve seen an ad a couple of times in a week,

you are definitely getting a high level of wastage. Our own research

shows that the first exposure always has the greatest incremental

effect. By the third exposure, they are definitely a lot less

interested. Of course, in some campaigns it’s worth showing the

commercial again and again to make sure the last couple of per cent of

your target audience see it once or twice.’

Gullen says the ITC findings are surprising, given that the ratings

weight of a campaign is lower on average these days than it has been for

a long time. But he adds: ’I can see how it might happen on cable and

satellite. I’m sure that some buyers do no more than choose a certain

channel and give it a certain amount of money.’

Does that happen? Tony Wheble, the senior vice-president of sales and

commercial affairs at Flextech, points out that advertisers have greater

negotiating leverage with cable and satellite channels than they might

with terrestrial. They are perfectly able to use that leverage


’It is mutually beneficial to ensure that the right advertising is

slotted into the right breaks,’ Wheble states.

But he also points out that disaffection, if there is any, hasn’t

filtered through to the raw ratings numbers. ’My perspective on this is

that the viewer will decide. But satellite and cable continues to grow

audience and if the viewing public was significantly concerned about ad

breaks, we wouldn’t be pulling through as much audience as we are.’

Wheble maintains advertisers are using multichannel in increasing

numbers for its targeting effectiveness - they can make sure they get

the right brand in the right break for the right audience. And he also

points to the radio analogy.

’Radio is the fastest growing medium and look at the way advertisers use

it - they use high frequency strategies and it must work because they

keep coming back,’ he states. ’Viewers self-regulate and if an ad is

appropriate for them, they will view it any number of times.’

George Michaelides, the managing partner of Michaelides & Bednash,


If viewers are that worried, they should vote with the remote rather

than complaining. And, on multichannel, they tend to - whatever the

ratings figures say. He says: ’There are some clients who use cable and

satellite sparingly because they regard it as a grazing zone. It’s

inevitable when you have 200 channels and they’re about to merge with

the internet. You just have so much information and entertainment at

your fingertips.’

Michaelides believes that creatives could think more about the

environment in which their commercials are shown. There are just too

many ads that are not good enough to bear repetition. He states:

’Commercials are also too expensive. When you are determined to spend

hundreds of thousands of pounds on the production of a single

commercial, you can’t do it very often. The world has changed - these

days you need a variety of different executions. You need to give people

a fresh perspective on the brand.

You need to do it continually.

’You don’t need to have research to tell you that bombarding people with

ads doesn’t get you very far. The law of diminishing returns sets in

pretty quickly. So if you are planning to be at the forefront of the

customer’s mind on a continuous basis, it has implications for how you

spread the advertising as well as how many executions you have.’