“Half of my advertising is wasted, and the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” I’ve seen that quote attributed to a great number of people. My research indicates these words to have been first uttered by William Hesketh Lever (1821-1925), the 1st Lord Leverhulme. He was better known on this side of the pond as one of the original Lever Brothers.
Marketers today still wonder what he wondered.
Which Half is Wasted?
At the risk of sounding arrogant, I know.
Let me explain.
The seminal study of media usage was conducted by the legendary researcher Alfred Politz in February of 1966: The Politz Study Of New York Radio.
Politz studied the patterns of listening to the top ten radio stations in New York City. He detailed the number of people who listened to the radio for one quarter hour per week, the number who listen for two quarter hours per week, and so on, through the heaviest users. He then collapsed the listener distribution data into quintiles (equal fifths).
Until Politz published his study, media buyers only needed two basic figures: the number of people who tuned in at least once each week, (cume persons) and the number who were listening at any given point in time (average quarter hour persons). Fairly straight ahead math could then be used to calculate how long (Time Spent Listening) the average listener tuned in.
Why Basic Arithmetic Doesn’t Work To Measure Audiences
Before 1966 media buyers were satisfied to know that the average listener tuned in for, say, 20 hours per week. After the Poliz study we learned that the heaviest users, (the top 20%), will stick with their favorite station for a full 60 hours per week. At the other extreme the lightest quintile would listen for only 2 hours per week.
Within each quintile the average listening might look like:
60 hours 21 hours 11 hours 6 hours 2 hours 20 hour average
Other studies confirmed that consumers of other media were also not equal. This same pattern occurs in television viewing, reading of newspapers and magazines, and even the reading of outdoor signs. Each medium has very heavy consumption at the top quintile, which grows progressively lighter as each additional quintile enters the equation.
Politz made us aware that every single consumer was a different human being. Some were heavy users of media. Some not so much.
Effective Advertising Frequency
The next step in our understanding came in 1979 when Mike Naples authored Effective Frequency, The Relationship Between Frequency And Advertising Effectiveness.
In a project commissioned by the Association of National Advertisers, Naples evaluated the data from a number of existing studies of consumer behavior. He concluded that the first and second exposures to any ad were not effective in persuading a shopper to buy. Naples stated:
“By and large, optimal exposure frequency appears to be at least three exposures within a purchase cycle.” He concluded “The central goal of productive media planning should be to place emphasis in enhancing frequency rather than reach.”
Media planners everywhere started combining Naples goal of three exposures with Politz audience distribution observations. The new Holy Grail (and 80’s media buzzword) became “Effective Frequency.”
Using the ratings services cume persons and quarter hour average persons, along with the math developed by Group W Radio from the Politz study, media buyers determined that there is an optimum number of exposures to an advertising message for each listening audience. *
How to Find That Optimum Advertising Level
Let’s explain the concept with a hypothetical radio station. Our hypothetical station has 111,800 cume persons listening each week, and 16,700 average persons of during during weekday prime time. These 111,800 people listen for an average of 5 hours per week. The optimum number of ads to reach this audience is 17 per week.
That schedule of 17 ads should reach 84,705 different listeners at least once. It will completely miss the remaining 27,095. Of those who do hear the ads, 21,646 of those listeners will hear only a single ad. 12,825 listeners will hear only 2 of them. Thus, the Effective Reach, the number of listeners who will hear 3 or more ads, will be 50,234, or roughly 40% of the cume. That makes sense. Here’s why.
Achieving an effective frequency of 3 with each of these five quintiles of listeners requires a schedule of:
First Quintile: 3 ads. Second Quintile: 17 ads. Third Quintile: 29 ads. Fourth Quintile: 53 ads. Fifth Quintile: 184 ads.
Let’s Start With the Bottom Quintile.
What do you pay per ad? How much would you have to pay for 184 ads per week? I’m willing to wager that you can’t afford a long term schedule of 184 exposures per week.
Perhaps you could stretch the budget enough to afford 53 ads. That’s a schedule which could motivate the fourth quintile. Congratulations. You’ve broadcast enough ads to persuade quintiles one, two, three, and four.
We Now Have Another Problem.
The first quintile only needed 3 ads to “get it.” Run 50 additional ads per week once they understand your message, and it’s highly probable that you’ll irritate those listeners. Annoy them this much and they’ll refuse to do business with you. Somewhere around ad number 17 they’ll split to some other radio station. **
Dogone it, you’re just never going to get them all. Customize your schedule for the heavy listeners and the light listeners will miss your ads. Plan to impact light listeners and you’ll repel heavy listeners. From one end or the other, you’re going to miss half.
Which Half Should We Attempt to Reach?
Wizard Of Ads ® Senior Partner Roy H. Williams suggests that on most radio stations 21 ads (plus or minus 2), each week will give you the greatest impact from the least number of dollars invested. You will effectively reach about half of that station’s audience.
Of course, you’re going to miss the other half of the station’s audience. There’s no way around it.
Question: On which of the listeners is the advertising “wasted?”
Answer: Any that won’t be exposed to our ad three or more times.
Somebody Tell Lord Leverhulme We Have His Answer.
We’re going to reach quintile one, quintile two, and about half of quintile three. We’re going to “waste” our ads on the other half of quintile three, and all of quintiles four and five.
However, some good news: the light users of one radio station tend to be the heavy users of another. And the average listener tunes into 3.6 stations per week. Find stations which share the same cume listeners, run 21 ads per week on each, and start getting spectacular results – assuming, of course, that your message is compelling and your offer is appealing.
Oh, and one final caveat. Depending upon the purchase cycle, as few as 2% of those people will be “in the market” on any given week. You’ll need to run this schedule next week to get the people who are ready to buy next week. You’ll need to run it the week after that to reach the people who are ready to buy that week. You’ll need to… well, you understand. You’ll need to run it every week that you intend to keep fishing for customers.
Your Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.
Got questions about your optimum advertising level? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com. Or call him at 304-208-7654.
* All figures based on Radio’s New Math, © 1978 Group W Radio.
** Program Directors HATE ads which run in double digits daily. Of course, Program Directors also know that about the time the Disc Jockeys say that they’ll puke if that song plays again, the listeners are just learning the words. Through the nature of their jobs Disc Jockeys have long Times Spent Listening.