Some television advertisements can be watched over and over again. For other adverts, only once or twice is enough. For the majority, however, the magic number lies somewhere in between. So how much is too much? How many times should your advert be seen for it to remain effective
and entertaining?

The number of exposures, in media terms, is described as frequency. This links with reach, or the number of people that are projected to be exposed to a campaign or advertising message. Media buyers can run a reach and frequency analysis on a campaign, founded on complicated mathematical formulas and algorithms. It shows how likely it is that a member of your target market will be exposed to the advertising once, twice, three times and so on up to ten, usually based on a period of one week. Three times is described as ‘optimum reach’ – the figure projected as the optimum number of times for a target market member to be exposed to your advert in any campaign week. This figure accumulates throughout the duration of the campaign. By the end of 12 months, for example, it could be projected that 50% of your target market would have been exposed to an advert at least 3 times, and 20% at least 10 times. Considering the size of the target markets (for example, men 18-49 nationally totals well over 1million), 50% seeing it at least 3 times is not too bad.

So where did this ‘Optimum Reach’ figure come from? The humble marketing text book will tell you that the magic number is founded on years of research and analysis of behavioural theories and motivation theories.

But like with any theory or model – it indicates the norm but not necessarily the right solution for all situations. There are many more questions to ask – how much time should there be between each exposure? How long does it take before people forget? How many times do they need reminding? Will they understand the concept the first time? What happens when there is more than one advert or creative execution in a campaign?

The answers depend on so many factors – the quality of the adverts, the message, complexity vs simplicity, words vs pictures, visual effects, the target market, other campaign advertising (what’s backing up the TV?) and much more. There is no right answer. But the next time you sign on the dotted line for an advertising campaign or media proposal – ask the media buyer or agency these questions. Remember how annoyed you get with that advert that you see three times in an program break. Think consciously about ‘the magic number’ for your campaign. Either that, or get gurus like us to do this hard work for you!