Advertising Wear-out

The advertising wear-out question keeps on coming up from advertisers. How do we know that the advertising campaign has run its course? What are the indicators of wear-out? What can we do to minimize it?

Wear-out is the point where the ongoing use of a piece of creative is no longer justified. At Ipsos-ASI, we distinguish between two types of wear-out: (a) justification of the ongoing use of the advertising in line with the brand parameters -- the brand aspects the advertising is aiming to affect; and (b) justification at the execution/creative level -- the advertising itself.

An advertising tracking program looks at two aspects of advertising effectiveness: advertising recall and persuasiveness. For an advertising campaign to generate impact, it has to meet these two criteria. When there is no response to the advertising, or less response than witnessed at campaign launch, at either of the recall or persuasive metrics then the advertising is deemed to be wearing out.

We typically find that persuasive measures are the first indicators of wear-out. Metrics such as purchase intent or brand perceptions begin to stabilize and/or decline, in many cases, following a range of 1,000 to 1,200 GRP (gross rating points) for a piece of creative. Recall begins to stabilize or decline shortly after.

What to do in case of wear-out? First identify the wear-out indicator and then devise a course of action accordingly. Consider the two variables: advertising recall response and brand response. In either case, (a) something stops happening (e.g., decline), (b) something is still happening but not as strong as witnessed at campaign launch (e.g., stabilization of measures), or (c) something positive continues to happen (continued increase in the measures).

Let us take those elements case by case:

  1. Advertising recall stabilizes or declines (nothing happening). This is a warning signal that the piece of creative has had its course and there is a need to consider alternate creative.
  2. Advertising recall continues to build, even if slower than at the launch stage, yet brand metrics stabilize or decline. In this case, the indicators are that the creative still have life in it, but the messaging needs to be reviewed to strengthen relevance.
  3. If both advertising recall and brand response are building at a lower level than at campaign launch, then a pool-out creative (new execution along the same theme) will become essential to sustain the campaign recall and impact.
  4. If both advertising recall and brand response continue to build at an incremental rate and a strong level, then your campaign is still performing well and you are optimizing on its creative and persuasive strengths. However, even at this stage, you need to be prepared to face wear-out and have strategies in place to address this.

Finally, is there a type of creative that is more prone to wear-out than others? There are no clear-cut findings on this. However, tactical advertising seems to have a shorter life in terms of recall and response than brand- or image-building advertising. Humorous ads, while effective for recall, tend to wear out quickly (the joke wears out on consumers), and such campaigns need to have several executions in the pool to sustain them. Ads with strong production or creative values and/or ads with longer term content and story continuity tend to increase the ad enjoyment and, in turn, have longer shelf lives.

Media & Brand Communication