How to Avoid Video Commercial Wear-Out

One of the most vexing challenges facing marketers today is commercial wear-out. It’s the negative effect of having a video ad or spot appear on TV or online for too long, or just playing it so often and in so many places that it not only stops selling the product or service, but also starts to annoy the viewer.

The worst part about commercial wear-out is that it usually happens to some rgreat creative executions. A marketer gets a favorable response from a new commercial; sales start to move; and customer kudos and likes start to pour in.  That’s when the trouble starts.  The brand pumps up the volume, the spot’s rotation gets increased, and the channel distribution grows, as well.

The next thing you know, sales stop growing; customers send emails of annoyance; and all those great indicators turn negative.

To illustrate what can happen, let’s take the case of two competing Insurance companies.  For our purposes, let’s call one Insurance Company SF and the other, Insurance Company P. Company SF spent a ton of money to get a well-known and polished football MVP to do a classroom careers day spot.  The commercial was charming, with some great dialogue. (My favorite line was “that’s not a job”).

The spot appears everywhere, on every sports channel, multiple times per week, and on every playoff game, again sometimes twice in the same game.  It gets so bad that Company SF has to go into uts out-take footage to splice together two other “versions” of the same spot, although the similarity is so striking you would hardly notice that it’s a different commercial.

Now let’s take a look at Company P, who has been using a well-traveled female actress / spokesperson, in her plain white uniform.  Company P has produced a ton of different videos, promoting the brand and also promoting all of the different insurance coverages provided by Company P.  The spots range from a savings message, to a spoof on a dramatic love scene in the pouring rain, to a fast-paced moment in an Asian food cart assembling orders.

Because of the extensive number of videos available and effectively rotated, the brand comes across as interesting, entertaining, and inviting even though the media levels for the overall Company P campaign are probably quite similar ti Company SF.

Many companies have their own wear-out measures. At a previous company of mine, once a commercial hit 600-800 TRPs (Target Rating Point – GRP method) on TV, it was time to pull it down. In general, TV commercials begin to show signs of wear out at about three times the TRP level of the awareness plateau for a particular commercial.  For example, if a spot starts to plateau at 400 TRPs, it will begin to show signs of diminishing impact at about 1,200 TRPs.

Clearly, one important option is to have the discipline not to over-air or over-distribute a spot, no matter how great it might be.  The second working solution is having more videos in-the-can for each campaign.  The challenge on this front is to do it affordably.  In previous columns, I shared three ways of increasing the number of spots for your campaigns: 

You can do batch shooting, where you plan on doing multiple spots in a single shooting session, even if it stretches out over a couple of days.  As another option, you can crowdsource your video.  Crowdsourcing can generate dozens of great videos to  utilize, all written to your creative brief. Or, you can bring production in-house, allowing for your own editing and production capabilities to generate more videos for more channels.

Whichever direction you choose, be sure to remain cognizant of the wear-out factor on video usage.  After all, annoyed customers do not contribute to a positive ROI!

5 comments about "How to Avoid Video Commercial Wear-Out".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, January 23, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.

    Through the history of direct response, the odd thing we've learned is that advertising "wears out" far slower than the marketing department, ad agency, or production company thinks. We have DRTV ads that have been on-air for as long as 10 years while returning the same response and impact at retail. Interestingly, this reality was noted 100 years ago by Claude Hopkins in his book Scientific Advertising in reference to print advertising that invited direct response. So advertisers should take care: Is your ad really "worn out" or are YOU and your team "worn out". There's a big difference.

  2. Claudio Marcus from FreeWheel, January 23, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.

    I agree that the issue of TV ad wear-out does not get sufficient attention. If you are doing a decent job of targeting your TV ads, then the wear out is likely to be even higher for your target audience. Of course, this also depends on whether your target audience tends to be a lighter or heavier TV viewers. Set-top-box data research reveals that the top quintile (20%) of heaviest TV viewers account for roughly 60% of all TV viewing. So if your target includes heavy viewers, they are far more likely to be exposed to wear-out (while the opposite is true for lighter TV viewers).

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, January 24, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

    Back to "how much wear out is there, really?"... A solid DRTV campaign will return the same results for 8 to 10 years (and that includes both direct sales results as well as sales at retail). A typical general ad campaign is given the boot by the agency & client every 3 to 6 months. This is a serious contradiction.

  4. Dan Greenberg from Impossible Software, GmbH, January 24, 2013 at 5:13 p.m.

    I think there are also technologies available (Claudio's company) and coming (mine) that can alleviate wear-out for certain types of campaigns... by creating and delivering a large number of versions of a given spot. Imagine if Company SF could assemble and deliver a kaleidoscope of versions of its spot, each with a different combination of setting, one-liners, calls to action, etc. Then, even if "the" spot were show to the same consumer over and over, it would possible remain interesting because it's different every time. While certainly easier to do this sort of thing on the web, I believe it's coming to TV precisely because it alleviates wear-out.

    Now if I could just get that "Home" song - the leitmotif for the US Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team - out of my head...

  5. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., January 24, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.

    I'm with Doug on this one. Way too often, the client is "tired" of the spot, sometimes before it has ever actually run. Agency compensation also has an effect. If new creative means new fees, then there's a built-in incentive to see the creative as "wearing out." Back when agencies produced for media commissions alone, they wanted to run the same creative forever – for obvious reasons. Like Hopkins, Ogilvy too counseled that effective advertising was so rare that a good ad should be run until there's clear evidence it no longer is working. The other move, of course, is to mothball creative temporarily, then bring it back later. Another good way to add value.

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