Established assumptions about advertising wearout are in doubt following changes in the media ecosystem, a study in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) has argued.

The findings, published in the report Revisiting the relationship between ad frequency and purchase intentions: How affect and cognition mediate outcomes at different levels of advertising frequency, fly in the face of what marketing practitioners and researchers alike have long believed about advertising wearout.

“The results of this study,” the paper reads, “show that consumers have a higher threshold for advertising repetition (i.e. more than 10 exposures) than suggested by prior research, which indicated that the optimal number of exposures a consumer should have to a campaign ranged from three to 10.”

Authors Jennifer Lee Burton (University of Tampa), Jan Gollins (Delta Modelling Group), Linda E. Mcneely (Mississippi University for Women) and Danielle M. Walls (BDJ Solutions) proposed that “the proliferation of media in the life of consumers today,” at least in part, explains the differences between their results and long-held findings of prior meta-analyses.

Furthermore, they asserted, “managerial implications of this new research potentially are profound. Media planners commonly adhere to past conventions driven by dated marketing and advertising research, planning for an average frequency of between three and 10 exposures.”

If the aim of media planning is to maximise purchase intent, the new research indicated that “media planners should strive for an average frequency of beyond 10 exposures.

“This especially is true in a media environment that is characterized by consumers being exposed to many more messages on a daily basis through many new forms of media.”

This most recent wearout examination also found that the tone and nature of a message may have an effect on consumer receptivity to multiple exposures.

“Affective approaches using humor, engaging storylines, or attractive sources,” the authors wrote, “will be effective at breaking through the clutter and capturing consumers’ attention when consumers have seen the advertisement only one or two times, on average. Emotional approaches designed to trigger problem recognition particularly would be effective in this stage.”

By contrast, “when advertisers are targeting consumers who have seen a campaign three to 10 times on average, they should use messaging focused on the features and benefits of the brand.

“They should try to set the brand apart from its competitors and offer consumers proof that the product is indeed the best on the market.

“That information should be chosen to help consumers include the product in their consideration sets and ultimately choose the advertised product.”

‘Revisiting the Relationship between Ad Frequency and Purchase Intentions’ appears as a part of a special What We Know About TV in The Digital Age section in JAR. The current issue of Admap – Frequency: how much is too much? – features a selection of articles by thought leaders from across the globe. WARC subscribers can access the deck Frequency: how much is too much? which summarises the expert advice and key recommendations from all the authors.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff