What Is Wearout Anyway?

Douglas R Scott
Millward Brown
Debbie Solomon
J. Walter Thompson


Studies on television wearout conducted over the past 30 years show inconclusive results, underscoring the complexity of the process and the number of factors that need to be examined to understand it. Recent evidence from Millward Brown demonstrates that focusing on only a few factors can underestimate the longer-term impact of advertising. When wearout occurs depends on what you say, how you say it, who you say it to, and on the media plan. The article also comments on wearout in print.

Deciding when an ad or ad campaign has done its job is an important part of the advertising planning process. Research on the subject dates back to the early 1960s. To date, over 50 major studies on wearout have been published, the majority of that work having been accomplished during the 1980s. [See Figure 1. A full listing of these studies appears in the references.]