I think if I were a student in elementary school today, I would probably be diagnosed as being ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).
Back then no one had a name for it.
My fiancé the other evening gave me a little sign to put on my desk. It was titled “Poohisms” and the sign reads: “If the person you’re talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient, it may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
What might have seemed a problem when I was young would later in my life be seen as an asset. The ability to focus on lots of different things all at once would be called “Multitasking.” Multitaskers were now seen as people who could handle lots more different work assignments and therefore were more productive workers.
As my broadcast career progressed, I rose to the position of general manager at the age of 32. General management in a radio station means you oversee the entire operation and during a typical day you’re dealing with sales, programming, promotions, business issues, engineering concerns as well as meeting with advertising clients and the station’s listeners. It can be a pretty diverse job.
Short Attention Span Theater
When I worked at Delmarva Broadcasting, the President was Pete Booker. Pete was the first person I ever heard describe the general manager job as “short attention span theater.” But once he said it, I never forgot it. And it really is what general management is all about.
Now the reality of multitasking has been revealed in studies and it’s not good. Turns out that multitasking is problematic and research studies say it kills your performance and quite possibly could injure your brain. In fact, research conducted at Stanford University found that the multitasker is less productive than the person who is focused and does a single thing at a time.
We’re All Multitaskers Now
With the advent of the internet and smartphones, everyone is multitasking these days. And that’s a real problem for advertisers. Everyone now has “fluff in their ears” not just ear buds.
It’s especially scary to see most people getting on their smartphone as soon as they start their vehicle. Driving a car IS the most important task at that moment and no one should be multitasking while driving. It’s not about handheld devices or hands-free. It is all about the mind being diluted of full attention to the critical operation of a motor vehicle.
For advertisers, trying to cut through to a world of multitaskers is a challenge of Mt Everest proportions.
When it comes to our memories, studies have found we forget over half of meaningful material we’re exposed to in about ten days. Meaningless material (like advertising) we forget in seconds.
This was so concerning to the Association of National Advertisers, they published a study on the problem in 1979. Long before the world knew anything about the internet or smartphones in everyone’s hand.
If having advertising reach effective frequency was important 38-years ago, what is it like today?
And what advertising medium can deliver it?
Early in my radio selling days, I learned of the Westinghouse slide rule to calculate the effective frequency of an advertising schedule placed on my radio stations. The slide rule helped me to calculate at least a minimum of a 3 frequency for my clients and often by spending just a little bit more and using all dayparts they could do even better. They were always fascinated when I pulled out my slide rule and calculated their schedule. They always bought my suggestions and always got results that turned them into annual customers.
I still have my Westinghouse slide ruler too.
Pierre Bouvard and Steve Marx in 1993 would publish a book called “Radio Advertising’s Missing Ingredient: The Optimum Effective Scheduling System.” It basically affirmed what the Westinghouse slide rule had shown. It takes a 3 frequency with the average listener to cut through.
The military knew this long ago. They put it this way in training soldiers:
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you just told them
In other words, the army knew it takes a three frequency to get a message to stick in the mind of new recruits.
Research Says: Messages Are More Effective When Repeated
If I were to say the words “Just Do It” you would immediately know what the brand is. Nike has been using those three words in their ads since 1988. Or how about “What happens here, stays here.” Does Las Vegas come to mind? The gambling mecca began saying this in 2004. Two more, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” or “We’ll leave the light on for you.” Geico and Motel 6 have been strong radio users for years and have made their brand a part of your brain whether you intended to remember them or not.
That’s effective advertising.
But in a 21st Century world of multitaskers a more recent study by Microsoft might be more on target with the frequency needed to get the job done. Microsoft concluded between 6 and 20 times was best. And yet, that may not even be new news.
The Financial Brand wrote about a book called “Successful Advertising,” and how the author Thomas Smith makes the following reflection on effective frequency:
The 1st time people look at an ad, they don’t see it.
The 2nd time, they don’t notice it.
The 3rd time, they are aware that it is there.
The 4th time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it before.
The 5th time, they actually read the ad.
The 6th time, they thumb their nose at it.
The 7th time, they get a little irritated with it.
The 8th time, they think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
The 9th time, they wonder if they’re missing out on something.
The 10th time, they ask their friends or neighbors if they’ve tried it.
The 11th time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The 12th time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The 13th time, they start to feel the product has value.
The 14th time, they start to feel like they’ve wanted a product like this for a long time.
The 15th time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
The 16th time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
The 17th time, they make a commitment to buy the product.
The 18th time, they curse their poverty because they can’t buy this terrific product.
The 19th time, they count their money very carefully.
The 20th time prospects see the ad, they buy what it is offering.
Now consider this: Mr. Smith penned this witty insight back in 1885 — over 132 years ago! Advertising was still in its infancy, but savvy marketers like Smith quickly figured out that “more frequency = more effective.”
Affordable Effective Frequency
You can be effective in any advertising medium, if you get enough frequency. That’s right ANY medium: radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, internet, billboards etc.
Here’s the problem, most advertisers can’t afford to attain effective frequency levels for a week let alone sustain that level of advertising 52-weeks a year in TV, newspapers, magazines, billboards, etc.
But they can by using RADIO.
Radio Gets Results,
because it’s the frequency* leader.